Athens: Turkey must stop challenging the sovereignty of the Greek islands

Athens turkey Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Government spokesperson Yiannis Economou referred to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' statements at the dinner of the leaders who participated in the European Political Community Summit in Prague during a press briefing on Friday and stressed that Turkey must stop challenging the sovereignty of the Greek islands.

As he said, the prime minister replied directly to Turkish Presiden Tayyip Recep Erdogan's accusations saying that "Turkey should stop questioning the sovereignty of the Greek islands and instead of causing tensions it should come to an understanding and dialogue without provocations and extreme rhetoric, as the leaders of responsible countries do."

The government spokesperson also referred to the intervention of Kyriakos Mitsotakis on energy and climate change and Greece's proposal to impose a price cap.

"At the Prague Summit, two things stand out: First, Greece is part of the solutions to the problems that plague Europe and European citizens. Secondly, Greece is determined and capable of strongly defending its sovereignty, its sovereign rights as well as the international legitimacy," Economou underlined.

For his part, the prime minister also underlined that Greece will respond when provoked adding that it is inconceivable to accuse Greece of increasing tension when it is Turkey that directly challenges our territorial sovereignty.

"At today's informal EU summit, in Prague, we will have the opportunity to revisit the crucial issue that concerns us all the last months.

"I am referring to the extremely high energy prices - and especially natural gas - as a result of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and Russia's attempt to instrumentalise energy sources at the expense of Europe," the prime minister said at the beginning of his remarks and added: "I believe, that the conditions have now matured so that in the next Summit, in Brussels, we can take definitive decisions for a drastic intervention in the natural gas market."

Everyone now realizes what the Greek Government has been claiming for several months now: that the natural gas market practically does not work, that a drastic intervention is needed in order to reduce the cost of natural gas at the European level and thus to facilitate national governments to support EU businesses and households.

I believe that the European Commission is also moving in this direction and we will await its final proposals for decision-making, at our level, in a few weeks at the European Union Summit in Brussels.," he stated.

When asked about Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's stance on Thursday, Mitsotakis replied that "Greece never provokes but it does respond, with confidence, every time it is provoked. I had the opportunity - in front of the 43 leaders that attended the first meeting of the European Political Community - to reiterate what I said in the United Nations (Assembly).

"It is unthinkable that Greece is blamed today for raising tension in the Aegean, while Turkey is the one that directly poses issues that concern even the sovereignty of the Greek islands. And it is impossible to proceed with a de-escalation of the relations between Greece and Turkey as long as this rhetoric persists.

"Greece is not the one that shuts the door on dialogue. We feel absolute confidence and certainty that we are right and we have International Law by our side," he underlined.

So, I believe that this was an excellent opportunity, through this dialogue, which took place in front of all the leaders, for them to realise and probably my colleagues who have a deep understanding of these issues (to realise) who is the one that provokes, who is the one that raises the tone and which is the country that defends with confidence its sovereignty and sovereign rights, without, though, ever shutting the door on dialogue. We repeat: We shut the windows to any provocation. We keep the door of dialogue open," he underlined.

Asked by Bloomberg about the tragic shipwrecks in the Aegean, he replied: "Once again, I want to express my deep sadness for what happened yesterday, in two shipwrecks in Lesvos and outside Kythira.

"I think everyone realised that with self-sacrifice the Hellenic Coast Guard, but also all the other government agencies, rushed to save stranded people who unfortunately entered boats without life jackets and sailed from the Turkish shores in very difficult weather conditions.

This instrumentalization of the refugee issue must finally stop. Once again, I call on Turkey to cooperate with Greece so that we can eliminate once and for all these networks, the wretched networks of traffickers of persecuted people. No more lives should be lost unnecessarily in the Aegean. There is no doubt that Turkey, if it wants to, and it has proven that, can do more to limit the problem, which is born at its root and that lies in the boats that leave Turkish shores.

From there on, Greece will continue to do what -I believe- it has been doing effectively and with humanity for the last three years: to defend its borders - but at the same time to look after and save every person who is in danger of losing their life in the sea."

Asked if he sees any progress in the terms of the talks about the price cap, he said: "As you know, we have been advocating for a price cap since last March. I see a growing momentum of other heads of state and government, who have joined our call for a more drastic intervention in the wholesale gas market and I am also particularly encouraged by the fact that the President of the Commission has recognized the need for a drastic, temporary, but drastic intervention in the gas market. What we would expect from the Commission - and I think this is something that we will task the Commission once more to do - is to come up with a concrete proposal by the next European Council in Brussels in a few weeks from now.

It is time to take decisions. We need to take decisions now. I think we have already lost time. We are paying higher prices than we should. We are supporting households from our national budgets but there is a limit to how much we can do that and we have an opportunity to flex our European muscle in a common way in order to prevent Putin from weaponising natural gas at the expense of European societies."