President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him after the latter’s remarks and criticism of Turkey during his recent trip to the United States.
In a televised address following a Cabinet meeting, Erdoğan said Mitsotakis spoke against Turkey and urged the U.S. Congress not to allow F-16 fighter jets to be sold to Ankara.
The Biden administration has informally reached out to Congress to seek approval for a proposed sale of advanced weapons and other equipment for NATO ally Turkey’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets.
The package is separate from the multibillion-dollar upgrade deal that Turkey requested from the U.S. last October, asking to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
During his visit to Washington last week, Mitsotakis warned a joint session of Congress against supporting the Biden administration’s proposed military sales to Turkey, claiming such a move could create additional instability in the region.
“We had agreed with him to not include third countries in our dispute,” Erdoğan said. “Despite this, last week, he visited the U.S. and spoke at Congress and warned them not to give F-16s to us,” he noted.
Erdoğan also said Turkey is calling off a key meeting that was planned to be held between the two governments this year.
“This year we were supposed to have a strategic council meeting. There’s no longer anyone called Mitsotakis in my book. I will never agree to have a meeting with him because we only walk on the same path as politicians who keep their promises, who have character and who are honorable,” the president said.
The U.S. is likely “to make up its own mind on selling F-16s to Turkey without needing to consult the Greek premier,” he added.
Erdoğan also accused Greece of harboring members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the culprit of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, and of establishing military bases against Turkey.
Greece this month formally extended its bilateral military agreement with the United States for five years, replacing an annual review of the deal that grants the U.S. military access to three bases in mainland Greece as well as the American naval presence on the island of Crete.
“Who is Greece threatening with these bases? Why is Greece establishing these bases?” Erdoğan asked.
Erdoğan also reiterated that Turkey made a mistake by re-accepting Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980.
Turkey and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, air space, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus and the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea.
A dispute over drilling rights for potential oil and gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea led to a tense naval standoff in the summer of 2020. Greece has since embarked on a major military modernization program.
But the two countries also cooperate on energy projects, including a newly built pipeline that transports natural gas from Azerbaijan to Western Europe. The pipeline, which crosses Turkey and Greece, is part of Europe's effort to reduce dependence on Russian energy.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that their excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations.
Officials from both countries resumed exploratory talks in 2021 after a five-year pause to lay the groundwork for formal negotiations to begin but haven’t made much progress./DS