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Politics

In London, Mitsotakis Hangs Tough on Turkish Provocations, Threats

LONDON – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had a carrot in one hand and a bludgeon in the other, saying at an event in London that while he still wants to try diplomacy with a testy Turkey that Greece is on alert if anything goes awry.

He was being interviewed by Kevin Featherstone, Professor of Contemporary Greek Studies and Director of the Hellenic Observatory at London School of Economics on a range of issues and was asked how he’ll handle ongoing Turkish provocations.

That includes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying he will again send an energy research vessel off Greek islands, his demands for Greece to take troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast, threatening an invasion and warning he could unleash more refugees and migrants on the European Union through Greece.

“Turkey is very clearly pursuing a revisionist agenda abroad of projecting sort of old imperial ambitions and thus causing problems with all its neighbors, including Greece. We have been … clearly committed to an open dialogue with Turkey. At the same time, we made it very clear that we will defend our sovereignty and our sovereign rights and that we will not accept any fait accompli when it comes to our region,” he said, his office’s website posted.

His New Democracy government, which is trying to keep out refugees and migrants, has been accused by human rights groups, activists, major media and Turkey of pushing them back, which he denied.

Turkey, which is supposed to contain some 4.4 million of them who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands – primarily Syria and Afghanistan – has allowed human traffickers to keep sending them to Greece without being sanctioned.

“We have people trying to cross into Greece every day on very dangerous inflatable boats. These people could be stopped on the Turkish coast. Quite frequently they’re stopped by our Coast Guard,” he said.

“Sometimes they’re picked up by the Turkish Coast Guard, as they should be doing. Other times they’re actually nudged -and I’m using a very careful word because it’s happening much more aggressively. They’re being pushed into Greece by the Turkish Coast Guard,” he added.

“This is our major difference with Turkey: the delimitation of maritime zones. It is technically a complex problem because of the geography of the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. But it is a problem that could be solved if there were real goodwill and a willingness to engage in honest negotiations,” he said.

“But, of course, when there’s constant finger-pointing on behalf of Turkey; Greece being portrayed as the aggressor; threats to the sovereignty of our islands. These are simply unacceptable arguments that make it very difficult to sit down and have a reasonable dialogue,” he added.

“Not many people believe that the Greek islands are a threat to the Turkish mainland, but quite a few people would believe that the Turkish mainland is a threat to Greek islands,” he said.

“What we’ve done … is keep the door for dialogue open, but at the same time make sure we strengthen our deterrence capability, invest in our armed forces, and build a strong network of alliances that makes peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean a central pillar of ours, of common understanding of what should happen in our region,” he added.

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