Greeks Press U.S. On Turkish Aggression

Castelorizon, Greece. Photo by Chris Vlachos

The Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, met with President Trump on Tuesday. The transcript of their joint remarks is available, and as expected, they focus heavily on the Iranian missile response to recent events in Iraq.

Those are not the primary concern in Greece. Greek politicians have a different priority, and that is the encroachment of Turkey into Greece. This was raised during the meeting with President Trump. An example, from the transcript:

PRIME MINISTER MITSOTAKIS: One point. One second.One point on this issue. I think it is important to point out that the agreement signed between Turkey and Libya infringe upon Greece’s sovereign rights and essentially cause great concern and instability in a region which is already highly problematic.

The President responded:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah.

The remainder of the Greek trip to the United States is being reported as very favorable within Greece. According to Ekathimerini, diplomatic visits to Congressional members and other political leaders yielded a common refrain of support for Greek sovereign territory.

President Trump’s tone was positive, but focused almost exclusively on Greece’s somewhat successful efforts to pull out of its economic crisis and the notion of Greece signing on to purchase more in defense contracts.

Turkish encroachment is an urgent issue for Greece because of Turkey’s history of attempting to seize Greek land, Turkey’s repeated incursions into Greek airspace (Stars and Stripes reported a few weeks ago that there were forty such incursions in a single day), and Turkey’s November submission to the United Nations of a claim on many Greek islands and waterways.

As recently as today, Turkish officials are pressing on the matter, framing the debate as associated with an outlier island rather than Turkish encroachment.

(The most obvious flaw in this argument is that the island in question is part of Greece, having been considered part of the nation on-and-off for centuries as wars shifted ownership, and recognized as Greek following World War II. It’s not “distant” from Greece any more than Hawaii is distant from the U.S.; it’s distant from the Greek mainland.)

The matter is such that all of Greece’s main political parties are joined on the topic. Upon returning home, Mitsotakis (who heads a center-right government) called a meeting with the center-left and hard-left political leaders to report on the situation with the United States.

Of the two, the hard-left leader was apparently more sympathetic to the Prime Minister. Alexis Tsipras of SYRIZA commented:

“The crucial question for every Greek citizen today, regardless of party preference, is whether our strong allies will press Turkey not to escalate these provocations and will support us in case the Turkish side steps up these provocations.”

Ekatherimini

Tsipras is asking that a defense agreement with the United States not be reauthorized until Greece gets a firm commitment from the U.S. that it will support Greece’s sovereign rights.

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Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.