Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said he has no intention of getting into an arms race with Turkey but that Greece has an obligation to strengthen its deterrent potential, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday, citing an interview with Greece’s state broadcaster ERT.
The two NATO allies strongly disagree about their overlapping claims on hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, based on conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend in waters dotted with islands. Relations between the two deteriorated sharply last year, with warships facing off in the eastern Mediterranean in a dispute over maritime boundaries and energy rights.
Mitsotakis on Monday said the only way to solve the problems in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea is through international law.
“I will tell you frankly: Agreements can be reached that require a mutual stepping back on some issues so that we can ultimately achieve solutions that benefit everyone,” Mitsotakis told ERT.
“I had made a prediction in the spring that we will have a quiet summer, and I see no reason why we should not have a quiet autumn and then a quiet winter. I believe that Turkey has also realized that the tension in the eastern Mediterranean ultimately does not serve anyone,” he added.
Mitsotakis highlighted that decisions adopted by the European Council regarding the eastern Mediterranean have brought the framework of relations in the area into the European prism and that Turkish-Greek relations have turned into Turkey-EU relations.
“Turkey knows very well that our borders are, as I told you, not only the borders of Greece, but also of Europe,” he said.
He also stated that cooperation can be achieved with Turkey on common issues such as the climate crisis and the refugee problem and that economic cooperation is also possible, which “presupposes respect for the neighbor and good neighborly relations.”
Mitsotakis’s remarks came a day before Greece announced the purchase of three new Belharra frigates from France with the option for one more.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday that Greece would buy three frigates from France as part of a deeper “strategic partnership” between the two countries to defend their shared interests in the Mediterranean.
In early 2021 Greece allocated 11.5 billion euros ($13.4 billion) for the modernization of its armed forces over the next five years. In January, the government approved a defense procurement program to purchase 18 French-made Rafale fighter jets, the delivery of which is scheduled to be completed in two years.
Commenting on Athens’ purchase of the French Rafale jets at a time of increased tension with neighboring Turkey, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in July: “They have been engaging in an arms race. They buy jets, arms, equipment. It is not possible to change the power balance [in the region] with a few secondhand jets.”