Athens prepared for Erdoğan’s possible challenges in Madrid

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is heading to the upcoming NATO summit with the text of the conclusions of the European Council in his luggage which calls on Turkey to stop making threats against Greece and to move on a de-escalation trajectory.

The PM is not seeking friction, which could be the outcome if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decides to raise the issue of Greece and its islands. Athens has already broached the issue of Turkey’s claims and threats with the United States and the European Council – the vast majority of NATO member-states.

Therefore, Mitsotakis will only respond if provoked. At the same time, in the event that things develop in Madrid in a way that could lead to a further escalation of Turkey’s belligerence, Athens has a response plan in place for the Aegean, with the armed forces fully prepared.

Mitsotakis has told close associates he does not intend to turn the meeting into a forum for confrontation with Erdoğan. However, it is clear that “nothing is going to remain unanswered,” and Athens will move on the premise of “proportionality” when it comes to its response, with answers stemming from international law. Ankara argues that at a time when NATO must be united, Greece is violating international treaties (Lausanne and Paris) by militarising the islands.

Athens is preparing for two scenarios. The first predicts that Erdogan will seek gains in order not to block the accession of Sweden and Finland, incorporating baseless demands such as the demilitarisation of the islands. In this case, Greece will not move from its national positions and the summit would be deadlocked. The second scenario is for Erdoğan to try to use NATO as a forum to push Ankara’s claims regarding the Greek islands, the joint exploitation of resources in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, and the claim that Greece supports terrorist organisations.

For the demilitarisation of the islands, Mitsotakis will move on the basis of the relevant Greek letter of reply to the U.N. on the matter. The legal service of the Foreign Ministry is also ready for any further elaboration by Ankara of its claims.

Regarding joint exploitation, Greece will point to The Hague as a vehicle for the settlement of the problem of maritime zones. Greece will also stress that Turkish allegations about terrorism are completely baseless and it is moving strictly within the EU framework.

(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)

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