In his address to the United Nations General Assembly Friday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis chose to emphasize the benefits of cooperation rather than rebut point-by-point Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s aggressive speech earlier this week.
Mitsotakis pointed out that Ukraine is not the only European country to have been invaded since World War II, mentioning Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus and attempts, even know, to undermine Cypriot sovereignty by denying its rights to an exclusive economic zone.
Closer to home, Mitsotakis said, Turkey asserts “baseless and unacceptable claims” on Greek islands, ignoring the 100-year-old Treaty of Lausanne. Disputing Greece’s territorial integrity is an “absolute red line” for all Greek people and an issue on which he, as prime minister, “will never compromise.”
For all his criticism of Turkey, Mitsotakis chose to emphasize the benefits of cooperation, and not only on issues affecting Greece and Turkey. In a deliberately low-key address, and one noted for its brevity, the prime minister also mentioned the European Union’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its efforts to overcome Russia’s “blackmail” on natural gas, “taking advantage of a certain dependency.” Related to energy, Mitsotakis mentioned the need for greater multilateral cooperation to tackle the challenge of climate change.
Regarding Turkey, specifically, Mitsotakis said that the vast majority of Greek and Turkish people do not want conflict and mentioned the “courage” of past leaders Eleftherios Venizelos and Kemal Ataturk, who met and signed a friendship agreement in 1930, eight years after the two countries had been at war.
As for Erdogan, who has repeatedly said he does not want a meeting, Mitsotakis said that he is always open to a meeting with him, indicating that this could happen at next month’s European summit in Prague. The EU on Thursday invited Turkey, the UK and Ukraine to the summit, an idea first broached by French President Emmanuel Macron.