ATHENS — Due to meet at a NATO gathering, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will have another sideline interest there: winning over US President Joe Biden.
While he's a known Hellenophile, Biden is under the same pressure all American leaders face when it comes to Turkey – keeping as close as possible a critical geopolitical ally that's often hostile to NATO and Greece.
Turkey was barred from getting US-made F-35 fighter jets after acquiring a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system that could compromise the defense alliance and be used in a conflict with Greece.
Erdogan has also constantly stepped up violations of Greek airspace and waters with fighter jets and warships and plans to conduct drilling for energy off Greek islands and staked claims in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.
So far, he's gotten away with it as a timid European Union, fearful he will unleash more refugees and migrants on the bloc through Greece and its islands, won't even discuss the idea of sanctions.
Mitsotakis has been building international alliances and tightened relations and military deals with the United States, with American warships in a short list of those that Greece is considering buying.
In a piece for the Turkish news site TRT World, Turkish-American diplomatic analyst Ali Cinar wrote that the Erdogan-Mitsotakis meeting is critical, coming after the countries foreign chiefs had a warmup talk in Athens.
That, he wrote, could pave the way for ratcheting down tension even though Erdogan said he won't relent over the drilling, with Turkey hunting for energy in Cypriot waters despite soft EU sanctions.
“Recent talks between the Aegean neighbours may usher in a new period in their relationship,” he wrote, adding that “harsh rhetoric appears to be changing,” in favor of negotiation.
He noted that Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, after meeting Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, said that, "We have started to work with the Greek side on substantial projects on an action and cooperation basis,” although Dendias later said he expected NATO to stand up to any Turkish aggression.
“It is well known that President Joe Biden gives full support and shows great interest in Greece. This was manifested during his time in the White House and his tenure in the Senate,” noted Cinar.
Let's remember that Biden thanked the Greek-American community in 2008 for The Biden Administration is also against a two-state solution in Cyprus, which Turkey, which has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion, has demanded instead of reunification.
“Even though the United States talks about a NATO expansion, its defence cooperation with Greece as well as the expansion of bases in the Aegean beg the question: Does the US view Greece as an alternative to Turkey?” he added.
He said that Greek analyst George Tzogopoulos, a specialist in Greek-Turkish relations said he didn't expect any major breakthroughs from the Erdogan-Mitsotakis meet but that, “Greece envisages new synergies as long as Turkey is in the process of recalibrating its relations with both the USA and the EU,” while hoping to cool the tensions over the seas.