New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his desire to convey a “message of friendship” from Greece to Turkey during his visit to the Dodecanese island of Leros ahead of the June 25 elections.
Addressing a crowd of ND supporters he said that “we are not destined to live in perpetual tension with Turkey.”
“We need a strong government to ensure the continuation of the foreign policy we have pursued towards Turkey in recent years,” he added.
Mitsotakis is in pole position to secure a second 4-year term as prime minister as opinion polls suggest that his ND party hovers above 40 percent of preferences, enough to provide him with a comfortable majority in the new parliament.
Speaking in Leros he emphasized, however, that resolving Greece’s main dispute with Turkey, which revolves around the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, can only be achieved through good neighborly relations and in accordance with international law.
He underscored that no Greek prime minister, including himself, is willing to discuss issues that lie beyond the agenda of Greek-Turkish relations, such as the demilitarization of the islands, sovereignty, and sovereign rights.
Mitsotakis also cautioned against harboring illusions, stating, “We are well aware that a country’s foreign policy does not undergo sudden transformations. While we are pleased to have witnessed a reduction in tensions in recent months regarding violations and transgressions of our airspace, we must not entertain illusions.”
“We extend a hand of friendship, but concurrently, we continue to strengthen our Armed Forces. We remain committed to protecting our borders and forging strong alliances that bolster the geopolitical standing of our homeland,” he said.
Greece and Turkey cancel military drills in the Aegean
In a further sign of a “thaw” in relations, the two NATO allies recently decided to cancel scheduled military exercises in the Aegean.
The Turkish Defense Ministry annulled the “Seawolf Exercise” in which thousands of personnel participate, with over 200 elements including ships, submarines and manned and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The large-scale exercise is carried out in the first week of June every year.
This was in response to the decision by Athens to cancel the “Kataigis Exercise”, which it carries out between May and June every year covering the entire Aegean Sea. Instead, small-scale training programs are being carried out.