The last thing NATO needs amid the Ukrainian war is another source of tension between Greece and Turkey, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Washington Post journalist David Ignatius during an open discussion at Georgetown University on Monday.
Mitsotakis, who is on an official two-day visit to meet with US President Joe Biden and address the US Congress in joint session, said that he has conveyed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the message that “this is not a time for aggressive moves, it is not a time to project revisionist views of history. Let’s find a framework to address our issues and not engage in activities that provoke one another.”
The premier also noted it is unacceptable that a NATO member state systematically violates another’s airspace, as Turkey does of Greece, but insisted on keeping communication open, to sustain a positive agenda and to recognize the points on which each country disagree.
He also said that the issue of Turkey’s disagreement about Finland’s and Sweden’s intention to apply for NATO membership will be resolved soon.
“This is not the time to use the NATO membership of two friendly countries as a bargaining chip. This is going to backfire if Turkey goes down that path. It is wrong as a matter of principle but also as a matter of tactics,” he said, building on comments made earlier in an interview on MSNBC.
Turning to the war in Ukraine, Mitsotakis said “as a European leader I’m proud of [Europe’s] response” to Russia’s invasion and the following sanctions, but he did not see the war ending anytime soon. Despite this, he said, communication channels should remain open with Russia, as European leaders are doing for a resolution through negotiations.
Greece retains strong cultural and religious ties with Russia, and does not see Russian people with hostility. But Greece has fought for its own independence, and had the obligation to stand by Ukraine and support it when its national sovereignty was compromised, the premier said.
Mitsotakis will meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House at 10 p.m. Greek time. His joint address to Congress takes place Tuesday at 6 p.m. [AMNA, ekathimerini]