Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday, while speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he believes the two nations can handle their disagreements diplomatically without a need for further conflict.
“We will not go to war with Turkey,” Mitsotakis said while in Davos. “We should be able to sit down with Turkey as reasonable adults and resolve our main difference, which is the delimitation of maritime zones in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean.”
He noted the complexity of the disagreement, saying that it is a “complicated issue because of the geography of the Aegean.” However, Greece had resolved several other similar disagreements with Italy and Egypt in this same manner previously.
“As long as you agree on the playbook, and the playbook is, you resolve your problems according to international law … you don’t unnecessarily provoke your neighbors, you keep channels of communication open,” Mitsotakis said. “And I think also it’s never helpful to … weaponize foreign policy for domestic reasons. It’s usually not a good approach because you end up poisoning your public opinion,” which he remarked in regard to both his and Turkey’s upcoming elections.
“As long as you agree on the playbook, and the playbook is, you resolve your problems according to international law … you don’t unnecessarily provoke your neighbors, you keep channels of communication open,” Mitsotakis added.
Seemingly on the brink of war often, Greece and Turkey, both members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have a long history of disputes over the Aegean sea, energy rights, and the migrant crisis. In September of 2022, the Greek Coast Guard fired warning shots at a Turkish cargo ship suspected of carrying migrants and which refused inspection. Earlier this month, a similar incident happened when the Greek Coast Guard again fired warning shots at a Turkish patrol boat which had attempted to ram them. This regular occurrence in the area between the two nations.
Both nations have alleged airspace violations with one another in recent months, with Turkey accusing Greece of harassing Turkish jets with anti-aircraft batteries. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also made statements threating to strike Athens with missiles, saying, “Greece is afraid of our missiles. They say that the TAYFUN missile will hit Athens, it will, unless you stay calm.”
Last June, during Turkish war games, Erdogan threatened Greece over it’s militarization of several islands near the Turkish mainland saying, “I warn Greece to avoid dreams, acts and statements that will result in regret. Come to your senses,” adding, “Turkey will not renounce its rights in the Aegean and will not back down from using rights that are established by international agreements when it comes to arming islands.” Greece has said Turkey deliberately misinterprets this agreement with Prime Minister Mitsotakis saying, “I ask, does anybody reasonably believe that the Greek islands are a threat to the Turkish mainland, or is it more realistic to believe that the Turkish mainland is a threat to the Greek islands?”
Ultimately, a war between Turkey and Greece could see a major crack in the NATO alliance, at a time when the nations of the group have started to come together in defense of Ukraine. The U.S. for it’s part has seemingly come down on the side of Greece, banning the sale of weapons to Turkey for their invasion of Syria and their stopping of Sweden and Finland joining NATO. The United States has also discussed selling F-35s to Greece. Turkey has also a very off-and-on relationship with Russia, of which makes many NATO countries uncomfortable. However, Turkey remains a strategic Middle East ally and a formidable military force with a near southern border to Russia.
In regard to the relations between Turkey and Greece, Mitsotakis said that he has had “very, very difficult moments” with the Turkish president but that, “I do not consider it impossible to find a solution with President Erdogan.”