“It is up to Turkey to close the road to the crisis and pave the way for a solution. We are ready to meet it on this second path,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during joint statements with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after a meeting in his office on Tuesday.
He said that he discussed with Stoltenberg “everything that has happened in recent months in the Eastern Mediterranean. Incidents that threaten the peace, stability and cohesion of NATO itself.
He underlined that “it’s not a bilateral issue. It concerns all the partners of the North Atlantic pact and [is] a challenge to Europe as a whole. This is a danger that lurks in a zone of interest for the US as well.”
Mitsotakis noted that “a typical example is the acquisition of S-400s by Turkey. Greece, faithful to its national rights, is constantly striving for a peaceful settlement of disputes. It is always ready for dialogue.”
He stressed that Greece “welcomes a first step from Turkey towards de-escalation. It remains to be seen whether this is an honest move or a temporary manoeuvre. We expect consistency and continuity from our neighbours. We expect an immediate date for the start of exploratory contacts with the sole issue of settling the zones in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.”
The prime minister stressed: “In the same context, it was decided to establish a direct 24-hour line of communication between military staffs.”
These are measures that followed a crisis but did not avert it. It is up to Turkey to close the road to the crisis and pave the way for a solution. We are ready to meet it on this second path.”
Mitsotakis said that he informed Stoltenberg about the decision to strengthen the military with 15,000 specialist permanent staff and said that Greece is one of the few countries that systematically spent more than 2% of its GDP on defence during the crisis period.
On his part, Stoltenberg described the discussions held in Brussels within the framework of NATO and the establishment of a de-confliction mechanism as constructive, noting that this meant a direct line for dialogue 24 hours a day to facilitate de-escalation.
He also congratulated “our allies” for this effort and said that the mechanism can help to create space for diplomatic efforts, while adding that there should be a spirit of solidarity between the allies under international law.
Stoltenberg praised Greece’s contribution to NATO and its operations, welcomed the strengthening of the Greek Armed Forces..
“Greece was at the forefront of the fight to tackle the refugee crisis,” Stoltenberg said, adding that NATO displays solidarity toward Greece.
He said that he supports the Greek and Turkish authorities as well as the Frontex in this battle, and thanked Greece for all the efforts made.
He also noted that this demonstrates that NATO helps the efforts of its member-states and noted that NATO is invaluable for everyone.
He said that they discussed concerns about Russia’s growing presence in the Mediterranean, noting that this has implications for NATO’s security and has to be tackled together.
He added that the NATO alliance was an effective platform for dialogue, with allies from Europe and North America meeting daily to discuss issues of vital importance to their security, no matter how difficult or thorny some of them were.
This is, he noted, was because “we know how much stronger we are if we join forces”, while the alliance was strong because there was solidarity between its members. Finally, he thanked Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for “his important and tireless efforts and support for the alliance.”
On Monday Stoltenberg had visited Ankara where he – at least officially – made the same compliments to Turkey.
PS so what exactly was the purpose of Stoltenberg’s visit in the area? Distributing compliments left and right, convinced that NATO is a ‘dialogue platform’? Oh, well…