New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday urged Turkey to respect international law and the rules of good neighborly relations following an incident in the Aegean Sea on Sunday.
Mitsotakis was speaking to three radio stations in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, when he made his comments, which were prompted by the sailing into Greek territorial waters on Sunday of a Turkish gunboat carrying the country’s chief of army staff.
Greece, said the conservative leader, “has faced incidents of escalating tension in the Aegean in the past, which it must always handle with calm but also with the requisite national confidence.
“This is not the time for big proclamations and public statements are often not the most conducive way to deal with such issues,” Mitsotakis said. “Greece obviously continues today to send a message of friendship and good neighborly relations to Turkey but, at the same time, this message should include respect for international law and international treaties and the informal rules of good neighborly relations between two countries doomed by geography to coexist in a sensitive region.”
Sunday’s move by Ankara to send a navy ship to the islets of Imia, which brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war 21 years ago nearly to the day, is seen by diplomats in Athens as a response to a Greek Supreme Court decision last week turning down an extradition request for eight Turkish servicemen accused of taking part in a failed coup last summer.
On the subject of the ruling, Mitsotakis said it is a “question that concerns the state of law and is in no way a foreign policy issue.”
“The Greek justice system acts independently. Greece is a European nation with institutions and principles and these principles, these institutions, cannot be questioned by anyone,” the New Democracy chief said.
Mitsotakis also referred to threats made last week by Turkish officials suggesting that Ankara would rethink a deal it made with the European Union for the return of refugees from Greece.
“I would like to remind that the deal made by Turkey is not just with Greece. It is an agreement with the European Union as a whole and one that carries financial benefits for Turkey,” he said.