The pandemic and Greek-Turkish relations were among the topics touched on by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday, while participating in the 2020 Aspen Security Forum.
Speaking with Harvard University Professor and executive director of the forum Nicholas Burns, Mitsotakis referring to the latest developments concerning Covid-19, noted “we must be careful now and not become victims of our own success due to complacency”.
He also said that the use of face masks is now important because Greece can’t go back to a lockdown, while noting that “the sectors of entertainment, travel and tourism were significantly stricken and in these sectors recovery will be a long-term matter.”
On Greek-Turkish relations, Mitsotakis noted that he has met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan twice since assuming office: “At our first meeting, I sincerely said to him that we should attempt a restart of Greek-Turkish relations because we will be neighbours forever. I truly believe there is no hostility, despite the various stereotypes, between the Greek and the Turkish people. Unfortunately, I did not receive the response I expected.”
Mitsotakis said that he had made it crystal clear to Erdogan that Greece was willing to discuss the one outstanding issue that it recognises having with Turkey, namely the delimitation of the maritime zones in the Aegean and in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The prime minister said that Athens was willing to resume talks with Turkey but not while under threat, and that Greece could not be blackmailed into negotiating because Turkey was threatening its sovereign rights.
“We also made it clear during the recent incident, when Turkey issued a NAVTEX threatening to carry out seismic research within the Greek Economic Exclusive Zone, that we will not accept this. The good thing is that no vessel arrived, something that I take as a positive sign, because as long as we are talking – if we genuinely want to talk – we can’t undermine the essence of the deliberations, which is how we can resolve the problem with the EEZ. Additionally, I was very clear to the international community, saying that if we do not reach an agreement, let’s go the The Hague and respect the court’s ruling,” the Greek premier said.
Referring to relations with NATO, Mitsotakis said that a policy of equal distances regarding Turkey was no longer acceptable to Athens: “It is now very clear in NATO, I think, that this neutral stance – that we are dealing with two NATO members, Greece and Turkey, and cannot intervene – is not acceptable to me anymore. I put this to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, namely that we are contributing to NATO, we are an ally and have the expectation that when another NATO ally is behaving in a way that jeopardises our interests, NATO should not adopt this stance of equal distances and non-intervention in internal differences. It is deeply unfair to Greece,” Mitsotakis said.