Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has warned Turkey against underestimating Greece’s status in the region, while hailing the benefits stemming from the extension of a defense agreement between Athens and Washington concerning military bases in Greece.
“We regard Turkey as an equal. If Turkey has the illusion of being a powerful [state] addressing a powerless interlocutor, it’s making a big mistake,” Dendias said in an interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition.
He said that having emerged from the financial crisis, Greece is willing to promote Turkey’s European Union membership ambitions provided that Ankara abandons its “gunboat diplomacy.”
Asked about Turkey’s infringements on Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the minister said that Athens and Nicosia have forged a common strategy ahead of the upcoming European Council and Foreign Affairs Council aimed at raising the prospect of EU sanctions against Ankara.
Turning to the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA), signed during the recent visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Dendias said the deal will benefit Greece in terms of military know-how and infrastructure, while generating local community spillover effects. He said the deal will strengthen the US presence in Greece, stressing that this is a “stabilizing factor in the wider East Mediterranean region.”
Dendias welcomed US declarations that proper state behavior involves respect for the principles of international law. “Pompeo took this a step further. He called out the ‘cheater’,” he said, referring to Turkey.
Expressing his regret that Moscow has not taken “a clearer stance” on Turkey’s violation of Cyprus’ sovereign rights, Dendias also voiced Athens’ discontent over Moscow’s sale of the S-400 defense system to Ankara.
He criticized efforts by Turkey to carve out an EEZ with Libya, while ignoring the existence of Crete. “Turkey’s unserious approach to the issue is not likely to succeed,” he said.