Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday he would end talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and cancel a key meeting between their two governments, accusing the Greek leader of angering Turkey.
In a televised address after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan accused neighboring Greece of harboring supporters of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey says was behind a failed 2016 coup attempt, and of setting up military bases against Turkey. Gülen has long denied the Turkish accusation.
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 should have a strategic council meeting. There is no one named Mitsotakis in my book anymore. I will never accept 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 the US should avoid creating a new source of instability on NATO’s southeast flank.
“The last thing NATO needs at a time when we are focused on helping Ukraine defeat Russian aggression is another source of instability on NATO’s southeast flank,” the Greek leader said. “And I urge you to consider this when making defense procurement decisions in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Responding to Erdogan’s comments on Monday, Greek government spokesman Yiannis Economou said Athens “would not get into a confrontation of statements with the Turkish leadership”.
“Greek foreign policy is heavily based on history, international law and our alliances, as much as this may anger some,” he said.
Greece and Turkey are NATO allies but have strained ties over a range of issues, including competing claims to sea borders affecting energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions erupted in 2020 over exploration drilling rights in areas of the Mediterranean where Greece and Cyprus claim their own exclusive economic zones, leading to a naval standoff.
Turkey also claims Greece is violating international agreements by militarizing islands in the Aegean. Athens says it must defend the islands – many of which lie close to Turkey’s coast – against a possible attack with Turkey’s large fleet of military landing craft.
Officials from both countries resumed exploratory talks in 2021 after a five-year hiatus to lay the groundwork to start formal negotiations, but have not made much progress.
Greece this month formally extended its bilateral military deal with the United States by five years, replacing an annual review of the deal, which grants the US military access to three bases on mainland Greece as well as the American naval presence on the island of Crete.
“Who is Greece threatening with these bases? Why is Greece building these bases?” Erdoğan asked.
Erdogan also reiterated that Turkey made a mistake when it reinstated Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980.
The Turkish leader has also recently criticized Sweden and Finland’s bids to join NATO, saying Turkey would not support it.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/recep-tayyip-erdogan-ap-kyriakos-mitsotakis-turkey-fethullah-gulen-b2085616.html Turkish President Erdogan says he will no longer speak to Greek PM