Blinken visits Turkish FM in Istanbul ahead of meeting with Mitsotakis in Crete

Antony Blinken, Hakan Fidan

At around 11:30 on Saturday morning, the meeting between the American Secretary of State and the Turkish Foreign Minister started in Istanbul.

American Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived late Friday afternoon in Turkey, the first stop of his tour of Middle Eastern countries and Greece.

During the meeting between Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, regional issues and bilateral relations are expected to be discussed, as the Turkish Foreign Minister had stated a few days ago.

After the meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Blinken will be received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before departing for Greece.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will land in Souda this afternoon at around 16:30, will be the third high-ranking US official to see up close the extraordinary view from the Mitsotakis family home at Akrotiri Chania. He was preceded in 2020 by his predecessor in the State Department, Mike Pompeo, and previously, for the first time in 1991, by American President George Bush, who returned in 1994 privately, maintaining a close relationship with Konstantinos Mitsotakis.

At around 17:00, Kyriakos Mitsotakis will welcome his distinguished guest, and they will begin their contact with a private discussion. Mr Blinken will arrive in Crete immediately after his contacts in Turkey with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his counterpart Hakan Fidan.

Blinken arrives in Greece in a period of easing tension in the Greek-Turkish relationship as events in the Middle East heat up.

In this light, Athens assesses that the inclusion of our country in the program of Blinken’s tour, immediately after his contacts in Turkey, highlights the Greek role as a pillar of stability and security, but also as a reliable and necessary partner and ally in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The agenda

According to government sources, the meeting is expected to discuss international and regional issues, focusing on the latest developments in the Middle East, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the latest developments in Ukraine, and the Greek-US defence cooperation.

It is a given, after all, that Greek-American relations are at a historically high level, given the recent high-level contacts of Mitsotakis in the USA, the speech to Congress, and the amendment of the Defense Cooperation Agreement, which recognised the geostrategic importance of Greece in the wider region and highlighted the long-term nature of the US commitment to Greece at a time when American priorities were being readjusted.

Not a “package” of the F-35 and F-16

The most interesting part of the discussion, however, in terms of equipment programs, is the Greek request to purchase F-35 in the coming years, pending American approval. From Athens, they point out that the Greek-American defence cooperation “is autonomous and is not defined separately”.

In practice, this means that Greece follows a systematic policy of strengthening its armed forces and cannot dictate to a country, such as the USA, what to do with Turkey’s armaments programs, especially about the supply of F-16, even if Congress still has strong reservations.

What is crucial for Athens is to disassociate the supply of the Greek F-35s from that of the Turkish F-16s.

“The weapons programs of Greece, a reliable partner of the US and a consistent NATO bid ally, cannot be connected with the programs of other countries,” government sources say, placing themselves thus also on press reports that Blinken is pressuring Turkey to soon approves Sweden’s accession to NATO and using the F-35s as a threat to Greece.

“Greece has submitted its request for the procurement of an F-35 squadron and is awaiting the official start of the process by sending a letter to Congress to approve the sale,” government sources told Proto Thema.

Present at the meeting that will follow the private discussion will be from the Greek side: the Minister of Foreign Affairs, George Gerapetritis; the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexandra Papadopoulou; the director of the diplomatic office of the Prime Minister, Ambassador Anna Maria Boura and the special adviser for International Policy and Public Diplomacy of Prime Minister Aristotelia Pelonis.

In addition to the associates of the American minister present in Crete, the US ambassador to Greece, George Tsunis, met with Gerapetritis the day before yesterday for this reason.

READ MORE: Erdogan to Zelensky: Turkey is ready to take on the role of mediator again.

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