Mitsotakis, Erdoğan meet in Vilnius amid US arms race

Mitsotakis, Erdoğan meet in Vilnius amid US arms race |

With low expectations but cautious optimism, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet on Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius amid a local race to get air defence equipment from Washington.

The Greek-Turkish relations have been in turmoil for years despite numerous “rapprochement” attempts.

However, this time analysts say it is different, considering that in Athens and Ankara, there are two powerful governments with big majorities expected to remain in power for the foreseeable future.

Turkey’s greenlight to Sweden’s NATO accession and the general intention to approach the West – including the EU – pleased Athens as it believes that this path will prevent long-standing tensions in the region and dialogue will be prioritised against provocative acts.

However, the reality is tough, considering that both countries have different agendas to discuss.

Greece makes it clear that the only issue to discuss with Turkey is the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Aegean continental shelf.

On the other hand, Ankara has a wider agenda, which includes – among others – the demilitarisation of Greek islands neighbouring Turkey.

Greek media report that Athens aims to create a “positive agenda” after the meeting avoiding highly sensitive issues.

It is, therefore, highly likely that the meeting will focus on light politics such as energy, transport on road and rail networks, trade, and tourism, all considered common points of possible bilateral cooperation.

US wants to give Greece a military advantage?

Although both leaders have expressed their will for a “reset”, the strengthening of their defence continues in parallel.

In a seemingly trade-off following Turkey’s “yes” to Sweden’s NATO accession, US President Joe Biden accepted Ankara’s long-standing request for the modernisation of its F-16 fighter jet fleet.

The issue will be discussed with the Congress where reservations have been expressed.

Mitsotakis, Erdoğan meet in Vilnius amid US arms race |

Athens on alert as Turkey brings F-16 jets into Sweden’s NATO talks

The Greek government is following closely the discussion over Turkey’s stance toward Sweden’s NATO membership as it suspects that Ankara’s request to Washington to upgrade its F-16 fighter jet fleet may be part of the “bazaar”.

Particularly, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, who in the past opposed selling F-16 to Turkey due to its aggressive attitude in the Mediterranean Sea, asks for guarantees to ensure the new fighters won’t be used against allies such as Greece.

“We’re having conversations with the administration […] If they (Biden administration) can find a way to ensure that Turkey’s aggression against its neighbours ceases, which there has been a lull the last several months, that’s great, but there has to be a permanent reality”, Reuters quoted him as saying.

Greece has been complaining to Western partners that Turkish fighter jets have been violating its airspace with daily overflights above islands, in a move to question the country’s sovereignty.

Furthermore, Greece’s MEGA TV reported that the US Congress is also in favour of selling to Greece F-35 combat fighters and even more modernised equipment, something that could give Athens a “military advantage” in the Aegean compared to Turkey.

Such a move would be a game-changer in the region, analysts estimate.

(Sarantis Michalopoulos |

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