Greece is not Turkey’s powerless interlocutor – Greek foreign minister

Greece is not Turkey’s powerless interlocutor – Greek foreign minister

Turkey should not underestimate the status of Greece, which benefits from the extension of a defence agreement between Athens and Washington concerning military bases in Greece, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told Kathimerini’s Sunday edition.

Underlining that Greece sees Turkey as an equal, the Greek foreign minister warned Ankara against seeing itself as more powerful than Athens.

“We regard Turkey as an equal. If Turkey has the illusion of being a powerful [state] addressing a powerless interlocutor, it’s making a big mistake,” Dendias told the newspaper.

The struggle for rich gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean continues to fuel tension between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. European Union member states and U.S. officials have objected to Turkey’s increasing drilling efforts in the region.

Turkey, the only country to recognise the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, says Turkish Cypriots should also have a say in gas exploration and a share of any revenues. The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, dominated by Greek Cypriots, says Turkish Cypriots will get a share of the revenues once the island is reunited.

Greece and Cyprus have forged a common strategy ahead of the upcoming European Council and Foreign Affairs Council aimed at raising the prospect of EU sanctions against Turkey over the country’s infringements in the Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Dendias said.

The Greek foreign minister also said Greece is willing to promote Turkey’s European Union membership ambitions as long as Ankara is willing to abandon its “gunboat diplomacy.”

Speaking on the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA), signed during the recent visit of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Greek foreign minister said the deal will benefit Greece by providing military know-how and infrastructure, Kathimerini reported.

Dendias said the deal would strengthen the U.S. presence in Greece, which he described as a “stabilizing factor in the wider East Mediterranean region.”

The United States and Greece on Oct. 5 signed a revised defence cooperation pact, which U.S. officials have said is critical to responding to new security challenges in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.