Erdogan says he won’t talk to Greek prime minister again

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he would stop talking to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and cancel a key meeting between their two governments, accusing the Greek leader of opposing Turkey.

In a televised address following a Cabinet meeting, Erdogan accused neighboring Greece of harboring supporters of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey says was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016, and to establish military bases against Turkey. Gulen has long denied the Turkish allegation.

Erdogan then accused Mitsotakis of recommending to US officials that Washington not sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey during a recent visit to the United States.

“This year we were supposed to have a strategic board meeting. There is no longer anyone named Mitsotakis in my book. I will never agree to have such a meeting with him because we walk the same path as politicians who keep their promises, who have character and who are honorable,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan was apparently referring to a speech Mitsotakis gave in Washington on May 17, when he told Congress that the United States should avoid creating another source of instability on NATO’s southeastern flank.

“The last thing NATO needs at a time when our goal is to help Ukraine defeat Russian aggression is another source of instability on NATO’s southeastern flank,” he said. the Greek leader. “And I ask you to take this into account when making defense procurement decisions regarding the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Responding to Erdogan’s comments on Monday, Greek government spokesman Yiannis Economou said Athens “will not get into a statement showdown with the Turkish leadership.”

“Greek foreign policy is strongly based on history, international law and our alliances, although that may annoy some,” he said.

Greece and Turkey are NATO allies but have strained relations over a host of issues, including competing maritime boundary claims that affect energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions erupted in 2020 over exploratory drilling rights in areas of the Mediterranean Sea where Greece and Cyprus claim their own exclusive economic zone, leading to a naval standoff.

Turkey also claims that Greece is violating international agreements by militarizing the Aegean islands. Athens says it must defend the islands – many of which lie near the Turkish coast – against a potential attack using Turkey’s large fleet of military landing craft.

Officials from the two countries resumed exploratory talks in 2021 after a five-year hiatus to lay the groundwork for launching formal negotiations, but have not made much progress.

Greece this month officially extended its bilateral military agreement with the United States for five years, replacing an annual review of the agreement that grants the United States military access to three bases in mainland Greece as well as to the US naval presence on the island of Crete.

“Who is Greece threatening with these bases? Why is Greece establishing these bases? asked Erdogan.

Erdogan also reiterated that Turkey made a mistake by re-accepting Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980.

The Turkish leader also recently criticized Sweden’s and Finland’s demands to join NATO, saying Turkey would not support it.

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