ΑΤΗΕΝS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, still hoping for diplomacy, won’t go on the offensive against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a NATO meeting in Madrid – unless pushed too far – and has Greece’s military on alert just in case.
Erdogan isn’t talking to Mitsotakis, upset that the Greek leader urged the US Congress, in an address there, to reject President Joe Biden’s plan to sell Turkey more F-16s that could be used against Greece in a conflict.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has been tilting in Turkey’s favor in the tension between the countries and refused to intervene over Turkish fighter jets violating Greek airspace, leaving Mitsotakis on his own.
Mitsotakis will take to the Madred meeting June 29-30 the backing – on paper – of the European Council which urged Turkey to stop making threats against Greece, the kind of language and approach Erdogan has just ignored.
But if Erdogan goes too far at the meeting and demands again that Greece take troops off islands near Turkey’s coast, citing the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which Turkey doesn’t recognize, the Greek leader is ready to come out swinging, said Kathimerini, saying that he “will only respond if provoked.”
Turkey has been provoking for months but Mitsotakis said that was Erdogan trying to get him to take the bait and bite back, which could escalate tensions to near-conflict level, which Greece is trying to avoid.
Mitsotakis told close associates he does not intend to turn the meeting into a forum for confrontation with Erdogan but after saying he would defend Greece’s sovereignty said that, “nothing is going to remain unanswered.”
READY, STEADY, FIRE
He added, however, that responses would be proportionate and that Greece will rely on the international rule of law, which Turkey doesn’t recognize unless invoking to its advantage.
Greece is readying, the paper said, for two likely scenarios, one in which Erdogan will veto hopes of Finland and Sweden to join NATO unless Greece demilitarizes islands, which would leave them open to being seized by Turkey in a conflict.
Mitsotakis would, the report said, reject that out of hand and leave the meeting in a gridlock, and Greece also believing Erdogan would use the same premise to push Turkish energy exploration off Greek islands and claim Greece supports terrorist organizations – the reason the Turkish leader said he’ll block Finland and Sweden.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said that it’s “completely shameful that the EU remains silent on illegal actions of Greece that violate international law,” without mentioning Turkey doesn’t accept the law.
After EU leaders supported Greece, the Turkish ministry said that the bloc’s leaders were demonstrating a “biased, visionless and distanced attitude” towards Turkey, which it said was “proof that the EU once again has failed to escape the vicious circle” regarding the country.
The statement said the EU was remaining silent on what it described as Greece’s “illegal actions in violation of international law, including its claim for 10 nautical miles of airspace, the militarization of the islands and pushback practices,” demanding the EU stop supporting Greece, an EU member.