Turkey ‘hopes’ for a new era with Greece under new Mitsotakis government
Turkey hopes for a new era in ties with the new Greek government to be formed under New Democracy Party (NDP) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis and one which will avoid fresh rows in Cyprus and the Aegean Sea, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, while vowing continued oil and gas drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean.
“I called him [Mitsotakis] yesterday and congratulated him. My wish is to run this new process with Greece in peace and in solidarity. After the polls, we will carry out our talks through our relevant officials. Our desire is not to experience any sort of difficulty in the Mediterranean and in the Aegean in the upcoming period,” Erdoğan told reporters before departing to Bosnia-Herzegovina where he will attend a Balkan Summit on July 8.
Mitsotakis won around 40 percent of the votes, well ahead of Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras, which secured his NDP a majority in parliament to form a single party government. The new Greek prime minister represents the second generation politicians of the Mitsotakis family after Konstantin Mitsotakis’ premiership between the years of 1989 and 1922.
Turkey regards Mitsotakis’ election as prime minister positive, with expectations that a new era could be launched. The former coalition government led by Tsipras had included ultra-right wing politicians, among whom a hawkish defense minister who caused tension between Ankara and Athens.
Erdoğan was one of the first leaders to congratulate Mitsotakis late July 7, in a sign of good relations for a new beginning. The Turkish president said he hopes the results will contribute to the relations between the two countries and to regional prosperity, presidential sources have said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also congratulated Mitsotakis on Twitter. “Warmly congratulate New Democracy leader Kriakos Mitsotakis for the electoral victory. Confident that Turkish-Greek friendship & bilateral relations will further strengthen during his leadership,” Çavuşoğlu said.
In a written statement, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy extended Turkey’s message over the results of the snap elections in neighboring Greece.
“With the establishment of the government under the leadership of Mr. Mitsotakis, we hope that our bilateral relations will be further enhanced on the basis of the friendship between Turkish-Greek peoples. To this end, we want to swiftly revitalize existing dialogue channels and start our contacts as soon as possible to address issues on our agenda,” he stressed.
Turkey and Greece have faced serious confrontations in the past, with an unresolved dispute stemming from a lack of demarcation lines in the Aegean Sea, which they share.
They came to the brink of a hot conflict in 1996 due to sovereignty claims by both sides of the Kardak/Imia islets in the Aegean.
The two foreign ministries had installed what they called “exploratory talks” in order to find ways to resolve these problems but are yet to conclude them. Following tensions in the recent years, a new working group between the defense ministries has been established to discuss them.
Another important regional matter is an ongoing tension over the unilateral drilling activities of the Greek Cypriot government for hydro carbon reserves off Cyprus. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot government have long condemned the Greek government for conducting these activities in the disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean at the expense of violating the rights of Turkey and of the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey’s determination not changed
When asked a question about this tension, Erdoğan reiterated Ankara’s determination in moving forward in its efforts to explore and drill with two vessels, Fatih and Yavuz, which have been deployed in the eastern and western parts of the island.
“Our determination, as both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of the Northern Cyprus, endures,” he said, repeating once again that Turkey’s activities and presence in the region will continue despite dissident voices.
“This process, in coordination with our vessels’ search and exploration activities, continues with its own road map. There may be some disturbing voices but we have already made clear that they will not divert us from our path. I am still of the same view, I am saying the same thing,” he added.