ATHENS — The recent events involving Turkey are not the concern of Greece or Cyprus and Turkey but mainly concern Turkey and the European Union, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in his address to the Economist conference in Athens.
Participating in the conference on Wednesday evening, Mitsotakis said "it is a problem that has a clearly European dimension, and Europe has made it absolutely clear that what's at stake is security in the Eastern Mediterranean." He also underlined that Europe, as a matter of principle, does not accept unilateral actions that are contrary to international law.
"We have stated something fully clear from the start: We are prepared to discuss with Turkey, via exploratory talks, on one issue, which concerns the delimitation of the maritime zones in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean…we will repeat these talks from where they stopped in March 2016. I want to be clear: that if we do not reach an agreement, we are prepared to take the matter to the International Court at The Hague and to respect the ruling, which will be based on the joint agreement that we will sign with Turkey."
He also noted that when two countries claim rights to the same maritime zone, unilateral actions are not permissible under international law, while Turkey now faced a package of possible consequences from the EU if it continued this behaviour.
"I am the last person that would want Europe to move in this direction but it is clear that the EU will stand at the side of Greece and Cyprus. It will not appear divided on this issue," he said.
Mitsotakis noted that he has not spoken with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since their last phone call but that their advisors are in contact, "which is, in my opinion, important." If Turkey continued efforts toward de-escalation, Mitsotakis said, then talks could progress but stressed that "the two things cannot happen simultaneously, in other words unilateral actions and talks."
He expressed concern over the continued Turkish Navtex relating to Cyprus but spoke of a "window of opportunity" in the bilateral relationship with Greece.
Referring to the upcoming EU summit on September 24-25, he said it was clear this would offer Turkey a choice between constructive dialogue or the consequences of continuing its unilateral actions.
The Greek premier also referred to the new EU Migration and Asylum Pact and the proposals that the European Commission will present on Monday, stressing that "we cannot fail twice as Europe". He pointed out that the problem had been left to be handled exclusively by the countries that formed the EU's external border.
He called for "common asylum rules for all and, at the same time, a fair process of dividing the burden through which a way will be found for every country to take on a part of the responsibility."
The Greek prime minister also spoke about his government's first year in power, the policy for reforming and modernising the public sector and his intention to ease the burden placed on the middle class.