Mitsotakis: Differences With Turkey Are Not Just A Bilateral Issue But Concern All the EU

BRUSSELS — Europe now has a much better understanding of the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and this is partly based on the principle that if the sovereign rights of a member state are attacked, this is an attack on all the European Union, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday in an interview with international affairs analyst Ian Bremmer.

In the first excerpt of the interview, the Prime Minister stressed that disputes over maritime zones are not bilateral or trilateral issues between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, but concern all of Europe, given that strategic EU interests are at stake in the region.

"It is also an issue that needs to be addressed by the United States. As you know, the US has renewed its interest in the Eastern Mediterranean, it does not want destabilising forces in this part of the world. That is why I think the visit of the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to Greece is so important," Mitsotakis added.

The prime minister reiterated that Greece wants and seeks a very constructive relationship with Turkey, but Ankara's behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean, where it violates the rights of Greece and Cyprus, is not in line with international law.

Ian Bremmer: Is international diplomacy working now? Certainly the two countries felt like they might have been at the brink of war.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: It was a very difficult summer. And I want to make it clear that it was not Greece that was engaged in any escalation or provocation. This is about delimiting maritime zones. It has been a disagreement we have with Turkey for many many years, which we have not been able to resolve. According to international law, if you have areas that have not been delimited, no party should engage in unilateral activity until the problem is resolved. It can be resolved in two ways. We either negotiate and find a negotiated solution or you can take the case to an international court in this case the international court of justice in The Hague and let the court decide on your behalf. Turkey didn't do either of the two. It sent an exploratory vessel in what we consider to be Greek exclusive economic zone accompanied by around 20 warships and also engaged in a rhetoric towards Greece which was extremely belligerent and flat out hostile. Of course, we also mobilised our fleet and we've [now] reached a point and I think it is good that the Turkish ship is back at port. And we have agreed in principle to begin exploratory talks, which is essentially the first phase before you enter into a formal negotiation to sit down and see whether we can find some sort of negotiated solution regarding this topic. International diplomacy has played a role. I think it was very clear to many international actors that this was not a difference between Greece and Turkey or for that matter Turkey and Cyprus because [Turkey] continues the same activity. It takes it a step further even, because it is actually illegally drilling within the Cypriot EEZ. But this is not just a difference between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. It is a difference between Turkey and Europe because strategic European interests are at stake. And it is also a topic that should really concern the US because the US has expressed a renewed interest in the Eastern Mediterranean, it does not want destabilising forces in this part of the world. That is why I think Secretary Pompeo's visit to Greece is so important. And there is also a new nexus of alliances being formed, the deal between Israel and UAE. Greece has excellent relationships both with Israel and the UAE. The trilaterals involving Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt. There are a lot of countries that think alike. Turkey chooses to sort of move in a different direction. I wish it were not the case. I wish we could have a very constructive relationship with Turkey, not only as a neighbour but also as a member of the European Union."


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