Greece is ready to “extend a hand of friendship” to neighbor and regional rival Turkey, Greece’s prime minister said Thursday, while also accusing Turkey’s president of whipping up anti-Greek sentiment at home.
Tensions have escalated between the two NATO allies, which are divided over a series of issues and have come to the brink of war three times in the last half century.
“My wish is that, even with delay, our neighbors will choose the road of de-escalation, of legality, of peaceful coexistence without rhetorical outbursts but with constructive actions,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Athens.
“On my side, they will always find me ready to extend a hand of friendship. We don’t have any room for further needless sources of tension,” Mitsotakis said, adding that differences must be resolved peacefully. “That is what our people want, that is what the Greek people want, that is what the Turkish people want, that is what all of Europe wants.”
Disputes between Greece and Turkey include sea boundaries in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean that affect energy exploration rights. Turkey has also blasted Greece for maintaining a military presence on eastern Greek islands that it says violates international treaties.
Greece counters that it faces a direct threat from Turkey, which has a significant military presence on the Turkish coast opposite the islands, and it has reacted with horror to statements from Turkish officials implying the sovereignty of some inhabited Greek islands could be disputed.
“It should not be that NATO partners question each other’s sovereignty,” Scholz said in a brief joint press conference with Mitsotakis after their meeting. “All issues must be resolved through dialogue and on the basis of international law. And we are very much in agreement on that.”
Mitsotakis said it was “truly a shame” that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “can’t see that he is walking into a dead end when he poisons his people with lies against Greece. Because our neighbors and all our allies know that the Greek islands do not threaten anyone.”
The German chancellor said it was “in the interest of all neighbors” to exploit the economic potential of the Mediterranean “for the benefit of their respective populations. I got the impression in my conversation that Greece is very willing to do this. And we can and should have confidence in that.”