Athens, Greece – Greece welcomes a “first step” from Turkey towards the de-escalation of tension, “but whether it is a sincere move or a short-lived maneuver remains to be seen,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday, following talks in Athens with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“It is up to Turkey to close the path to crisis and to open the path to a solution,” he said in comments to the press after the meeting at the Maximos Mansion, stressing that Turkish violations in the Eastern Mediterranean “threaten peace and stability in the region, but also the cohesion of NATO itself” and are “not only a bilateral issue.”
“Through the constructive engagement of Greece and Turkey at NATO headquarters, we have now established a bilateral military deconfliction mechanism. This includes a commitment to use a secure hotline between Greece and Turkey, available 24 hours a day to facilitate deconfliction at sea and in the air,” said Stoltenberg, hailing efforts from both sides.
“The deconfliction mechanism can help to create space for diplomatic efforts. It is my firm hope that the underlying disputes between two allies can now be addressed purely through negotiations, in the spirit of allied solidarity and international law,” he added.
On the subject of Russia’s growing military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, the NATO chief said that “this has implications for our security so we must address it together.”
The Greek prime minister also referred to Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, describing it as a risk that also has an impact on the interests of the United States in the region.
On the migration crisis, Stoltenberg said “NATO stands with you in solidarity.”
“NATO’s mission in the Aegean Sea supports Greek and Turkish authorities and the EU border agency Frontex in efforts to cut the lines of human smuggling, and I thank Greece for your contributions to this deployment,” he added.