As Turkey continues to ratchet up tensions in the East Mediterranean, officials in Paris and Brussels have taken a tough line against Ankara with hopes in Athens that this solidarity will be underlined during talks between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday.
French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire stressed, in an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, that any threat against Greek and Cypriot sovereignty in the region will not be accepted. Meanwhile Josep Borrell, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, said that Brussels should finish drafting sanctions against Turkey for its transgressions in the region.
After talks with Macron on Wednesday, Mitsotakis is expected to travel to Brussels to meet European Council President Charles Michel. The flurry of diplomacy comes at a critical moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing all of Ankara’s claims in the region, challenging both Greek and Cypriot sovereignty, even as Ankara says it has left open the option of resolving its differences with Greece at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Greece is bracing for new moves by Erdogan over the coming months, believing he is more likely to proceed with threats to open the gates to refugees heading to Europe than to launch a search for hydrocarbons in Greek waters.
In any case, amid rising bilateral tensions in recent weeks, Greece has taken certain counter-measures. These include securing the condemnation by EU leaders of a maritime borders agreement signed by Ankara and the Tripoli-based Libyan government that ignores the presence of Greek islands.
Athens has also won the full support of France, which is expected to be reiterated by Macron on Wednesday. The participation of the Hellenic Navy in the carrier group that will escort the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle this month on part of its mission in the Eastern Mediterranean is seen as an indication of strengthened bilateral ties.
Athens has also been buoyed by a letter to Mitsotakis from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, describing Greece as “a key ally, and a crucial player in the Eastern Mediterranean,” and referring to Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations which stipulates the need for peaceful resolution of disputes.