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Politics

If Elected Again, Mitsotakis Would Seek Erdogan Meeting During NATO Talk

ATHENS – If re-elected in the second round of polls on June 25, former Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated that one of his top priorities would be to engage in talks with newly re-elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a NATO meeting.

Although tensions between the countries had somewhat eased following a deadly earthquake in Turkey and a tragic train accident in Greece that claimed 57 lives, Erdogan had previously threatened invasion and had been escalating provocations.

Furthermore, Erdogan had refused to hold further discussions with Mitsotakis, dismissing the New Democracy leader as inconsequential. This came after Mitsotakis, in May 2022, addressed the US Congress, urging lawmakers to veto President Joe Biden’s plan to sell additional F-16s to Turkey and enhance the Turkish Air Force.

Mitsotakis is heavily favored to secure a second-round victory over the main opposition SYRIZA, replicating his resounding triumph in the first round on May 21. His aim is to achieve a sufficient majority to reinstate single-party rule, effectively neutralizing any rivals.

During an interview with the state-run broadcaster ERT, Mitsotakis expressed his desire to engage in dialogue with Erdogan, with the goal of “redefining the roadmap for the coming months.” However, he clarified that the only issue he would seek to address at the International Court of Justice in The Hague would be the delimitation of maritime zones.

Erdogan has contended that if Greece were to expand its sea boundaries to 12 miles and demand the withdrawal of Greek troops from Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast, it would be a cause for war. He refers to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which he does not otherwise recognize.

Regarding defense procurements, Mitsotakis emphasized Greece’s obligation to bolster its Armed Forces due to the proximity of the country’s largest and geopolitically unpredictable neighbor. He cited the acquisition of French Rafale fighter jets and warships, as well as the ongoing efforts to obtain US-made F-35s and establish a mutual defense pact with France.

“We have managed to significantly alter the balance of power in terms of our Armed Forces. The situation in the air has undergone a complete transformation compared to four years ago. Turkey will certainly not acquire F-35s at this time, while our request to purchase them has received approval,” Mitsotakis remarked, acknowledging recent endorsements from key members of the US Congress.

Turkey’s aspirations to acquire F-35s were thwarted after Erdogan proceeded with the purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, undermining NATO security and potentially posing a threat to Greece in the event of a conflict.

Regarding the French Rafale jets, which had drawn Erdogan’s ire, Mitsotakis noted, “Turkey is attempting to upgrade its F-16s, but we possess the Rafales.” Erdogan has withheld approval for Sweden’s entry into NATO, demanding additional F-16s and Air Force upgrades from the US as a condition.

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