ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is trying to keep his cool as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps making claims to Greek waters and territory and demanding troops be taken off islands near Turkey’s coast.
Erdogan, upset that Mitsotakis urged the United States Congress to veto President Joe Biden’s plans to sell Turkey more F-16’s, said he’s no longer talking to the Greek leader and that Mitsotakis “doesn’t exist.”
Mitsotakis said he hoped that would change as they will both be at a NATO meeting in Madrid from June 29-30, the defense alliance refusing though to intervene over Turkish fighter jets violations of Greek airspace.
Turkey said it may challenge the sovereignty some some Aegean Greek islands near Turkey’s coast unless troops are taken off, citing the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that Turkey doesn’t recognize unless invoking to its advantage.
Erdogan said it would also be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles, cutting off Turkey’s coast and that he would again send an energy research vessel and warships off Greek islands.
Unchecked by a timid EU, Erdogan has seem emboldened to up the pressure on Greece but Mitsotakis said he’s not going to bite even against the bellicose statements that Erdogan is making.
At a news conference afte the end of a European Council meeteing, Mitsotakis referred to the tension with Turkey but said he wouldn’t take part in rhetorical dialogue and would continue pressing for diplomacy.
“Turkey must stop the extreme aggressive rhetoric of questioning Greek sovereignty,” he said, adding that Greece has responded to every provocation and challenge with facts, disputed by Turkey.
Mitsotakis said he is always calling on Turkey to engage in “a good-faith dialogue” while noting at the same time that “we are ready to defend our sovereignty with determination,” reported Kathimerini.
“I continue to believe that we should meet and talk. As for the NATO Summit, the agenda is different and you can be sure that if Athens is provoked, it will respond in the strictest way and the appropriate answers will be given,” he also added, Greece having built up its arsenal in case.
The EU’s response was a cautious statement – bloc leaders have been wary to antagonize Erdogan, fearful he will unleash more refugees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan.
But Mitsotakis he was pleased. “We are fully covered by the conclusions adopted unanimously and which express their concern about Turkey’s provocations,” he noted, satisfied with the diplomatic answer.
The EU only asked Turkey the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all member-states “and to de-escalate the tension it is cultivating in the Eastern Mediterranean, in order to promote peace and stability in the wider region.”