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Politics

Mitsotakis Time: UN Bully Pulpit to Confront Bullying Erdogan

September 22, 2022

NEW YORK – That’s all he can stands and he can’t stands no more from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ceaseless lashing out, so Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will use the United Nations podium to get in his face.

With diplomacy not working against Erdogan, who’s not talking to Mitsotakis, and went hard against Greece during his UN showtime, Mitsotakis told a gathering of Greek-Americans he will come right back at the Turkish leader.

“No one will bully Greece. The rest … at the UN,” Mitsotakis said at a lunch in his honor by several expatriate organizations in New York City, referring to the UN’s annual General Assembly opening giving heads of state the spotlight.

He talked about increasingly hostile rhetoric from Turkey, where even rivals of Erdogan are pushing him for a conflict with Greece over Turkish demands that Greece remove troops from Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast.

Erdogan is again also threatening to use 4.4 million refugees and migrants as political weapons he said he would unleash on the European Union through Greece unless he gets his way.

Turkey, without proof, has said that Greece is pushing back refugees that Turkey allows human traffickers to keep sending during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.

“Greece is turning the Aegean into a cemetery for migrants,” said Erdogan, stating that Greece “with its illegal pushbacks increases the violence against migrants in the Aegean.”

Erdogan also stated that apart from the “inhumane pushbacks,” Greece is pursuing a policy of “political repression and discrimination” against its Muslim community, said Kathimerini.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Papamitsos)

“Whoever tries to conduct shows of force in the area, are not equal and have no relations militarily or politically and makes themselves a joke. In the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, a continued stability and peace depends on the respect of everybody’s rights and interests,” he said.

He added: “We call on Greece to cease its policy of provocations and tension and to respond to the call for cooperation and support,” not mentioning Turkish violations of Greek airspace with fighter jets.

“Turkey will defend its rights and interests to the very last in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean and will not be entrapped in the games of those who pursue a strategy of tension for political gains,” he said.

Erdogan also said that it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles and alleged that Greek missile defense systems locked on to Turkish fighter jets during a NATO exercise with American B-52 bombers.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Papamitsos)

WONT BACK DOWN

To counter all that, Mitsotakis told his hosts that Greece will keep building foreign alliances, such as the mutual defense pact with France and the renewed military cooperation agreement with the United States.

He also said he would deconstruct Erdogan’s arguments point-by-point, taking a new tack from turning the other face and urging his counterpart to talk, which has gotten Greece nowhere fast.

With Turkey renewing relations with Israel – which had been getting closer to Greece, especially over energy hunts in the seas – Mitsotakis also met with representatives of five Jewish-American organizations and, separately, with the President and officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

Media reports said that Mitsotakis wouldn’t be inflammatory and even during his address to the US Congress in May when he asked lawmakers to reject President Joe Biden’s plan to sell Turkey more F-16’s he didn’t mention Turkey by name.

The Greek leader instead was said poised to frame Turkey as the aggressor and take apart Erdogan’s claims to the contrary and back up Greece’s arguments with facts instead of bluster.

Erdogan, from the UN podium, flashed photos of dead refugee children whose demise he blamed on Greece for allegedly pushing them and their families back, without mentioning Turkey let traffickers send them out on dinghies and on foot.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Papamitsos)

That was said to have inflamed Greek officials who saw it as shameless grandstanding and another attempt by Erdogan to arouse passions and play to his nationalist base as he – like Mitsotakis – faces a tough 2023 re-election.

Mitsotakis can again say that Turkey is trying to blackmail Europe with the refugees and migrants, a tactic that has worked in getting timid EU leaders to back down, afraid to confront him.

Mitsotakis was expected to use his UN spotlight time to beat back Erdogan’s threats even as tensions had risen from time-to-time to near-conflict levels, uncertainty over what their global stage showdown might produce.

To Erdogan’s threat of an invasion in saying, “We may come suddenly one night,” Mitsotakis had already fired back at him to “come during the day,” and the Greek leader said the country’s sovereignty would be defended to the hilt.

Mitsotakis also had the stage to again deliver statistics about thousands of Turkish violations of Greek airspace, which NATO has refused to confront, and which he said has raised provocations to a boiling point at times.

The Greek Premier also was to use the opportunity to also challenge Turkey’s drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters and rejecting reunification talks with demands instead that the UN accept the Turkish-Cypriot occupied territory.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Papamitsos)
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Papamitsos)
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Papamitsos)
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Papamitsos)
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Papamitsos)
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. Photo: “EK”/Christodoulos Athanasatos
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. Photo: TNH/Christodoulos Athanasatos
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. Photo: “EK”/Christodoulos Athanasatos
Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park for the dinner organized by Greek-American organizations, September 21, 2022. Photo: “EK”/Christodoulos Athanasatos
A crowd of expats await the arrival of Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park, September 21, 2022. Photo: ΤΝΗ/Christodoulos Athanasatos
A crowd of expats await the arrival of Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park, September 21, 2022. Photo: ΤΝΗ/Christodoulos Athanasatos
A crowd of expats await the arrival of Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park, September 21, 2022. Photo: ΤΝΗ/Christodoulos Athanasatos

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