ATHENS – Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias applauded a United States move to sanction Turkey for buying Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems that could be used against Greece in a conflict and undermine NATO.
Greece, Turkey and the US are members of the defense alliance which hasn't moved to put penalties on Turkey for buying the missile system from an ideological enemy while the European Union has also backed away from sanctions over Turkey's plan to drill for oil and gas off Greek islands.
The US has acted in the waning days of the administration of outgoing President Donald Trump who said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a friend and didn't want to provoke him.
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a harder line and Dendias said the sanctions against Turkish defense companies were needed to show that Erdogan “crossed the line,” in dealing with Russia, reported Kathimerini.
Speaking at a conference on regional issues, Dendias said that despite Turkey's aggression that Greece is willing to negotiate but only if the provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean stop.
After the EU backed away from even considering sanctions demanded by Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis – who earlier withdrew it to give diplomacy a chance – Erdogan talked even tougher.
Dendias said the US sanctions and the EU's timid warning that it will take up the idea of sanctions in March, 2021 – unless that leads to another delay – could ratchet down the tension with Turkey but Erdogan immediately said he wouldn't be deterred.
Dendias admitted that Greece wanted the EU to confront Erdogan but Germany – home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and a major arms supplier to Turkey, including submarine components that could be used against Greece, blocked it.
Dendias was speaking at the second Southeast Europe & East Med conference, organized by the Delphi Economic Forum, in association with the Hellenic American Leadership Council.