Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed on Friday his readiness to extend “a hand of friendship” to the winner of the upcoming elections in Turkey, hoping that the next [Turkish] government will “reconsider its approach toward the West.”
This came in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press (AP) and published by The Washington Post. Mitsotakis said he is willing to speak to whomever wins the May 14 elections in Turkey.
“But …… I know that foreign policies of countries don’t change from one day to the next,” he told the AP. “That means we will continue to strengthen our deterrence capabilities and our defense capabilities.”
He expressed his hope that the next Turkish government “would overall reconsider its approach towards the West, not just towards Greece, towards Europe, towards NATO, and towards the United States.”
Despite being NATO allies, the two neighboring countries have been at odds for decades over a number of bilateral disputes, including maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean, overlapping claims to their continental shelves, and the long-running Cyprus dispute.
Since 1974 relations between the two countries have remained tense in the follow of invasion by Ankara of Northern Cyprus which fell to the Turkish control. In 2020 tensions went high again after Ankara discovered gas fields off Cyprus. Since then, the Turkish President has regularly threatened Greece.
The other dispute began in September 2022, when Turkey accused Greece of obstructing Turkish fighter jet from the S-300 air defense system, which is stationed on the island of Crete. Ankara said Greek pilots put Turkish planes under radar in east Mediterranean in a NATO mission last month. Athens rejected the Turkish allegations of breaching its aerial space.
“………, we live in a precarious neighborhood with … a much larger country than us that’s also been behaving aggressively,” Mitsotakis noted.
The prime minister stressed that better ties require an end to bellicose rhetoric from Turkey. “If the Turkish government every other day talks about coming at night to invade our islands, obviously that is not very conducive towards building a climate of trust and goodwill.”