Mitsotakis underlines need for dialogue with Turkey to resolve issues
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday underlined the importance of dialogue between Turkey and Greece to resolve their bilateral disuptes.
Speaking at a press conference at the NATO summit in Madrid, Mitsotakis said Greece and Turkey must keep talking to resolve their issues in a "civilized manner."
"We must meet, we must talk," he said, referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
"We must deal with our differences in a civilized manner, in a framework of good neighborly relations and with international law as the sole point of reference. There is no other framework on which we can rely to resolve our differences."
Turkey did not raise any issues against Greece during the summit, according to Mitsotakis.
However, he clarified that all members were told that the Ukraine crisis was the main focus for the summit, and there was no space for other discussions that could possibly destabilize the alliance on another front.
Long-existing tensions between the neighboring countries flared up again recently, with Ankara saying that Athens should stop arming islands in the Aegean Sea that have a demilitarized status and abide by international agreements.
Ankara says the Aegean islands were given to Greece under the 1923 Lausanne and 1947 Paris treaties on the condition it does not arm them.
Athens has said that Turkey's remarks about it arming the islands are unfounded. The two countries, which are NATO members but have long been at odds over a range of issues, have both sent letters to the United Nations outlining their rival positions on airspace and the islands.
President Erdoğan said last month that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis "no longer exists" for him, accusing the Greek leader of trying to block sales of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey during a visit to the United States. Erdoğan also announced that Turkey was halting all bilateral talks with Greece that started in 2021.
He also warned Greece to demilitarize islands in the Aegean, saying he was “not joking.” He spoke during Turkish wargames near the Greek islands that included an amphibious landing scenario.
The two NATO allies have long been at odds over a number of issues including offshore rights, ownership of uninhabited islets, competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, overlapping claims over their continental shelves, maritime boundaries, airspace, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus, the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea and migrants. They have come close to war three times in the past half-century, while NATO stepped in when a dispute over drilling rights for potential oil and gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea led to a tense naval standoff in the summer of 2020. Greece has since embarked on a major military modernization program.
The Greek premier's office confirmed on Thursday that Athens has sent an official request to the United States to buy 20 F-35s, a combat aircraft made by American defense firm Lockheed Martin.
In Madrid, Mitsotakis said Greece intends to "acquire a squadron of F-35s, with a possible option for a second one."
"Sending a Letter of Request (LoR) which has happened in the past few days is part of this process," he said, adding that this is the first of multiple steps for a deal.
Greece expects the delivery of the planes to start in 2027-2028, said the prime minister.