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Politics

Mitsotakis Cautions Turkey Greece Ready, Tone Down Aggression

ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has again urged Turkey to turn down the heat and its provocations, still wanting to try dialogue and diplomacy, but said he’s ready to use force of necessary to defend Greece.

That came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become more belligerent in his demands, including that Greece remove troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast and warning it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles.

Erdogan also has said he would again send an energy research vessel and warships off Greek islands to hunt for energy and Turkey’s Blue Homeland doctrine envisions occupying more territory.

Erdogan has also repeatedly sent F-16 fighter jets to violate Greek airspace with NATO, the defense alliance to which both belong ignoring it and Turkey even being praised as a “valuable ally,” despite buying Russian S-400 missile systems that undermine NATO and could be used against Greece.

Mitsotakis appealed to Erdogan and Turkish officials to cool their jets but said that, “in any case, Greece is ready to defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights,” reported Kathimerini and the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA.

“We’ve had a barrage of overflights and they’re constantly bringing up the unconscionable argument of supposed diminished sovereignty over the Greek islands. Such rhetoric leads nowhere… I wish, I hope and I openly urge Turkey not to translate this rhetoric into more tension in the field,” Mitsotakis said, speaking at a conference on the national health system.

That was in reference to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying the sovereignty of some Greek islands with troops on them would be challenged unless they are removed, leaving them open to invasion.

“I think we are far from the point of 2020,” Mitsotakis added, pointing to previous periods of tension between the uneasy neighbors, when Erdogan sent 10,000 refugees and migrants to the land border along the Evros River and urged them to cross before they were stymied.

“It was our country’s duty to bring up these provocations, to seek the support of our allies, whether we’re talking about the United States or the European Union,” he said, Greece reaching out for alliances.

Erdogan was also upset that Mitsotakis had a captive audience while addressing the US Congress and urged American lawmakers – without naming Turkey – not to sell more F-16s to Turkey as President Joe Biden wants.

“That support came publicly, without asterisks and footnotes,” Mitsotakis said, further calling on Erdogan to back off the tough talk because, “This rhetoric leads us nowhere,” but no indication he was heard.

“This is an unpleasant development because I also had the impression after the meeting with President (Erdogan) that we had found a framework for reconciliation,” he said.

The two met in March in Ankara and agreed to a detente that was broken by Erdogan almost as soon as Mitsotakis left the buildings, Turkey continuing an apparent test of Greece’s will with constant airspace violations.

Mitsotakis noted that when he said that instead of following the agreement that, “There was an unprecedented barrage of overflights and Ankara’s “unthinkable argument about supposedly reduced sovereignty in the Greek islands.”

While Erdogan has said that he will no longer speak to Mitsotakis; however, the Greek leader said, “I imagine at some point we will talk because we have to talk,” the Turkish leader still welcome at EU meetings.

“I do not hold a grudge. However, I will defend the Greek positions with the certainty that we are in the right,” said Mitsotakis, adding that Greece “is ready to defend its sovereignty and its sovereign rights.”

Erdogan’s nationalist coalition partner Devlet Bahceli raised the issue of the Dodecanese islands, saying the “the heart and face of the Dodecanese are turned toward Turkey! Whoever touches our vein, we will uproot their heart.”

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