Greece’s Foreign Minister George Katrougalos tried to assuage fears about Turkey’s constant provocations during a media interview on Monday claiming that its actions are more symbolic and directed for internal consumption.
Katrougalos made the comments during an interview with radio News247 and noted that Turkey’s show of power in the Southeast Mediterranean was not only counterproductive but actually intensified Turkey’s isolation, since these actions acted as a boomerang and were condemned by all the international community.
The Greek Foreign Minister claimed that the situation was under control, which proved “how well programmed Greek diplomacy and all our actions so far have been.” He said that Turkey, with the expedition of the ship Fatih to Cyprus’ EEZ “is attempting to react to the significant progress there has been made in the eastern Mediterranean in terms of pushing ahead, via the law of the Sea, to delineate EEZs and establish cooperation among the states, with the EASTMED pipeline as a prime example.” Turkey was trying to create a distraction, he added, but was failing and intensifying its isolation with these actions.
He said that the actions of the neighbouring country are symbolic because they “can’t proceed with real drilling alone,” adding that “their effort is a message to say ‘we are also here’ and mostly to dispute the Cyprus Republic’s legal acquis with the concession of plots for financial exploitation to major multinational companies”.
On the Turkish provocations in the Aegean, Katrougalos said that this is part of the effort to create grey zones, noting that this is not possible when the whole of the international community condemns them as illegal. He said that Greek diplomacy will not stop the effort for political dialogue, while referring to his next meeting with his Turkish counterpart in Athens, he said that such a meeting foresees the lack of provocative moves. In this context he said that the sea routes with Turkey are proceeding and may be implemented in the summer while on the Economic Forum he said that it depends on how conditions develop.
“Greece does not claim anything and is not willing to give away anything. It operates according to international law and is a factor of stability in the region. Turkey operates in a destabilising manner,” he said.
When asked about the acquisition of the S-400 missile system by Turkey, Katrougalos estimated that this will decide its relationship with NATO and expressed the view that the strategic dilemma facing Turkish president Recept Tayyip Erdogan is whether he will enhance his relations with Russia or chose to maintain the balances. He also estimated that if Turkey proceeds with the acquisition of S-400, it will not change the balance in the Aegean, as it will not be accompanied by the acquisition of the F-35 and revealed that Greece discussed buying the F-35 but not at present.
On relations with other Balkan countries and Russia
Any move that threatens the Greek minority in Albania will be dealt with under international law, Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said in an interview to News 247 radio earlier on Monday.
In statements related to the property rights of the Greek minority in Albania, he said Greece has “received assurances and the commitment” from the Albanian government that the minority rights will be respected. Katrougalos said that Greece “is in a position to exert some control because Albania’s European accession prospects will be discussed in June, and Greece supports them.” The criteria for pre-accession talks to begin include clauses about the protection of minorities and good neighbourliness, he said.
When asked about the path to EU accession of North Macedonia, following the Prespes Agreement signed with Greece, Katrougalos said Greece “is trying to support (North Macedonia) as much as we can to show Europe (that it is) a small country which tries to resolve the issues it has with its neighbours, and which has no problems in its intention to (follow through) on the obligatory reforms the EU is requesting.” But the EU must also reciprocate, he noted.
The FM also noted that Greece and Russia are improving their relations, and referred to a recent Joint Interministerial Committte that met in Thessaloniki “with important results”. In its multi-faceted foreign policy, Greece tries to strengthen its relations with Russia as it has with the United States and China, keeping difficult balances.
In the next few days, the minister said on German WWII reparations to Greece, the note verbale approved by parliament will be ready for delivery to Germany. The effort for reparations “is a truly national effort,” he said, and the government would therefore “try to reach consensus on the possibility of an interparty committee” on the issue.
Speaking of his predecessor, whose efforts led to the Prespes Agreement, Katrougalos said, “Nikos Kotzias was one of the most successful foreign ministers and left a deep imprint in the planning of foreign policy.”