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Mitsotakis Hopes for Restart in Greece-Turkey Relations

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“There is a bold agenda with Turkey that I am willing to explore,” PM Mitsotakis said. Credit: Prime Minister’s Press Office

Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Wednesday’s meeting with President Erdogan “was an opportunity for a restart in relations with Turkey following four difficult years.”

“It confirmed my view that Turkey appears to be ready for a change in direction in its foreign policy,” he said during an interview on Skai TV on Thursday evening.

“This could only benefit Greece from such a change. Whenever needed, we defended our sovereignty and our sovereign rights, but it is better to live like friends,” Mitsotakis added.

During the meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Lithuania, it was agreed that the positive climate in the bilateral relations in recent months should have both “continuity and consistency” as this would be in the interests of the two countries.

It was also agreed that both sides should build on the positive momentum and activate multiple channels of communication between the two countries in the near future.

Mitsotakis: Delimitation of marine zones is the main issue with Turkey

Speaking on Thursday the Greek PM reiterated that the delimitation of marine zones is the only big outstanding issue between the two countries.

Explaining, Mitsotakis said, “My goal is that we enter into the heart of our basic issue, as long as we manage to reach an agreement to resort to the [International Court of Justice] in The Hague; it is not a simple issue.

“In any case, even if we do not manage to succeed in this, maintaining the good climate between the two countries – no violations or infringement of air space, and letting us build on a positive agenda – that too would be a significant achievement. There is a bold agenda with Turkey that I am willing to explore.”

Speaking of agreeing with Turkey to resort to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, he said, “Is it in Greece’s benefit to resolve in a just manner and on the basis of international law the great difference with Turkey? The answer is Yes.

Any agreement of this kind could mean some compromise from certain positions that would provide the starting point of negotiations. We are a long way away from this setting, and a role would be played by the Greek Parliament and by parties.”

Mitsotakis added, “I have an obligation to explore whether there is a window of opportunity. There may not be one, at the end.”

Greece, Turkey and the F-16s

The Greek premier was asked to comment on the F-16s Turkey will procure from the United States and the American Congress’ concern that the fighter jets should not be used against Greece, another NATO member.

“The United States’ main concern is to have peace and security in the East Mediterranean,” he said, based on bilateral Greece-US discussions after having secured a strong defense agreement.

This, he said, may include “good news as to the support they provide us”, both in terms of the F-35s and in the opportunity to acquire additional material for free. The government’s main obligation is that Greece has a strong deterrence ability, and it has succeeded in that, Mitsotakis added.

Mitsotakis also mentioned that Turkey has the obligation to return to the negotiating table on the Cyprus issue, and he said that in his talks with Erdogan he had raised the issue of Turkish consulate influence in the Greek Muslim minority in Rodopi.

The Lausanne Treaty is unquestionable, he stressed. “This issue concerns Greece. Our Muslim compatriots are our own, European, citizens,” he noted.

Asked if he trusts the Turkish president, he responded, “He certainly comes out of a great electoral victory, and perhaps this frees him from using foreign policy issues for domestic consumption. I experienced a different climate. This should have continuity and consistency.”

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