Mitsotakis says Greek-Turkish rapprochement won't be without 'disruptions'

Thu, 1 Feb 2024 9:05 GMT
As both Türkiye and Greece seek fighter jets from the U.S., the Greek premier argues it’s unrealistic to expect the recent normalization between the rival nations to be without turbulence.
Mitsotakis says Greek-Turkish rapprochement won't be without 'disruptions'

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis doesn’t expect the recent normalization of ties between his country and Türkiye to be without turbulence.

“Maintaining the good climate is essential, but anyone who believes that the rapprochement will progress without disruptions, I would say, is out of touch with reality and time,” Mitsotakis was quoted by Greek media as telling a local radio interview on Tuesday.

The premier’s remarks come amid his government’s ongoing defense agreement with the United States and efforts to acquire a “qualitative advantage” over Türkiye that will bolster its deterrence capabilities and modernize its armed forces.

“There is a need to build on the significant progress we have achieved,” Mitsotakis acknowledged, referring to the ongoing thaw between the Aegean rivals since last February.

Türkiye and Greece have been at odds for decades over a series of issues, from territorial water claims over the Aegean to the rights of the Turkish minority in Greece and the ethnically divided island of Cyprus.

Following the deadly earthquakes in southern Türkiye last year, hostile remarks waned and mutual goodwill blossomed in Turkish-Greek ties, leading to rare in-person meetings between Mitsotakis and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as concrete results.

During Erdoğan’s landmark visit to Athens in December, the sides announced a friendship declaration, visa facilitation for Turkish citizens for 10 Greek islands in the northern Aegean for up to seven days and the decreased flow of irregular migrants to Greece.

The sides have since emphasized the importance of maintaining a positive atmosphere on the path to normalization, but both Ankara and Athens have this month reached respective deals with Washington for fighter jets, raising concerns of fresh skirmishes in the Aegean.

Turkish and Greek jets often scuffle in the region, although the past three years have been relatively uneventful.

Ankara has repeatedly warned its neighbor against entering an arms race with Türkiye, particularly on building a military presence on the disputed Aegean islands since the 1960s in violation of postwar treaties.

The purchase of F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. and the upping of defense budgets are meant to counter the protection of Turkish interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece says it needs to defend the islands against a potential attack from Türkiye, but Turkish officials said continued militarization of the islands could lead to Ankara questioning their ownership.

For Mitsotakis, the demarcation of the continental shelf and economic exclusive zone is the only “difference” between the countries, but even if the issue isn’t resolved, Türkiye and Greece “should be able to coexist and focus on a positive agenda.”

“My intention is to visit Ankara next May as a reciprocation for Erdoğan’s visit,” he said.


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