Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis press conference upon the completion of the NATO Summit in Madrid

The Summit, which is coming to an end, is of great geopolitical importance for the future of NATO, as the new Strategic Doctrine has been adopted, which updates the Alliance’s priorities in view of the challenges we will be called upon to face in the next decade.

Obviously, Russia is a strategic opponent of the Alliance at this juncture, and that is why we, as an Alliance, are moving forward with a significant strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank, so that we can project a deterrence to any Russian ambitions towards NATO member countries.

At the same time, this Summit is extremely important because we have essentially approved the enlargement of our Alliance, adding two new members: Finland and Sweden, two European democracies, member states of the European Union which will contribute significantly to further strengthening our Alliance. And, as you have seen, in the end, any obstacles were overcome very quickly and I would say effortlessly, so that today we can invite these two countries to become members of our Alliance.

I consider it important that the Strategic Doctrine reaffirms the commitment of all members of the Alliance to the concept of territorial integrity, International Law, and the protection of human rights. These are important concepts that unite the countries of the Alliance, as we are jointly urged to face challenges in a world that is becoming more and more complex, more and more complicated.

This morning we had the opportunity to discuss the challenges that are coming from the south. Challenges such as the issues of terrorism, illegal immigration, the crisis which – unfortunately – has not yet been effectively addressed in Libya, the rise of Islamic terrorism in the Sahel region.

These are challenges that generate reasonable concerns and force us to look not only towards the East but also to the South. And obviously Greece, a country that is a pillar of stability in the southeastern Mediterranean, wants to play a leading role in this debate.

Finally, we have all expressed our strong concern about the fact that we may be faced with a food crisis of immense proportions. And Greece, once again, offers to help and support any effort made, under the auspices of the United Nations, in order for the wheat which is currently trapped in Ukraine, primarily in Odessa, to leave Ukraine and to finally end up in the countries that are in need today.

Greece has a distinct role to play in this effort, as it controls the largest fleet in the global commercial shipping.

Let me stop here. Mr Oikonomou. Please coordinate the questions.

Nikos Meletis (ERT): Mr. President, I would like to ask if you think that President Biden and the Americans’ exhortations to Mr. Erdoğan about the tensions in the Aegean will take place and will force the Turkish President to limit himself to rhetorical outbursts and to avoid tensions in the field.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Look, I also read the White House press release about President Biden’s meeting with President Erdoğan. I think it was very clear, a clear message that tensions in the Aegean and in Syria must be avoided.

I think it was a direct urge to Turkey to return to the table of dialogue and to avoid the extreme rhetoric that we have, unfortunately, suffered in recent months. I also wanted to say that in none of the many discussions that we had during this Summit did Turkey raise any issue that concerns the presentation of its own arguments against Greece.

This, I think, says something about whether these arguments can really stand in an international environment like that of NATO or whether it is ultimately an argument that is aimed more at domestic public opinion than at an alliance of countries that should think and perceive security in the same way as NATO.

Giannis Kantelis (SKAI): So can we assume that you are expecting a quiet summer? Because lately there has been concern regarding this extreme rhetoric by the Turkish leadership. And secondly, if with the recommendations of the European Union, of Mr. Michel and of the American President, Mr. Biden, a window of dialogue has opened with Turkey, despite the “Mitsotakis yok” of Tayyip Erdoğan.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I have told you many times, Mr. Kantelis, that I have heard “Mitsotakis yok” in the past, I heard it after Evros, it was articulated in another way.

We met with Mr Erdoğan. I estimate that at some point we will meet again. We must meet, we must speak and we must deal with our differences in a civilized manner, in the context of good neighborly relations and with International Law as the only point of reference. There is no other framework on which we can rely to resolve our differences.

Beyond that, I think it has become clear to everyone that at this juncture the focus of all NATO members is on Ukraine. And I do not think there is any understanding, any tolerance to open any other discussion, possibly destabilizing the alliance on another geographical front.

I think that says it all, so I still believe that we will not have any mobility on the field and we will not have a repeat of the events of summer of 2020.

George Evgenidis (STAR – Proto Thema): Mr. President, what you are saying is very positive and it remains to be seen if it will be confirmed in the field. Turkey may have been quieter at the NATO Summit and Mr. Erdoğan may not have raised the issues he was referring to in the previous days. Yet they are engaged in a kind of cultural diplomacy, if I may put it this way, in a propaganda attempt with the term “Turkaegean”. It seems that there have been some mistakes and some gaps in the Greek mechanisms, finally allowing Turkey to establish this brand name. What does the government intend to do about this issue? Will we react? How do you deal with what Turkey has done?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Look, obviously the government will react in a legal manner and we will exhaust our legal options to deal with this development. And I will not equivocate, Mr. Evgenidis, obviously there are responsibilities because there was no earlier reaction. I want to be very clear: the responsibilities here are related to officials. Some people within the administration, quite simply, did not do their job well.

I believe that we have a legal arsenal at our disposal to correct what happened, which affects the tourist image of the country and affects our tourism product. Although, seeing the results of this year’s tourist season, I do not think that this campaign had any substantial impact on how well Greek tourism is doing, especially tourism in the Aegean, especially tourism on our islands.

Eleni Evangelodimou (Ta Nea): Mr. President, how do you explain this change of attitude by Mr Erdoğan here at the NATO Summit? I say this because, shortly before arriving here, the Turkish President returned to this rhetoric of “Mitsotakis yok” that we had been accustomed to all the previous time. What happened that made him change his attitude?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I think we have seen many changes in President Erdoğan’s rhetoric. I still believe that much of what is being said is intended for the domestic political audience.

I have said many times that I could do the same. I could get into an intense dialogue of personal confrontations with President Erdoğan. I have no intention to do so. I will continue to insist that Greece’s door to a dialogue within the framework we have defined, this door is always open. At the same time, our country will continue, whenever it has the opportunity, to raise the issues of Turkish aggression within the European Union, bilaterally with our partners who are interested in being better informed about what is really happening today in the eastern Mediterranean.

But I think that the messages that were sent out, I would say both in public and behind closed doors, are absolutely clear. I will repeat: at the moment all the Alliance’s focus is on how to support Ukraine, how it can defend itself against the blatant Russian invasion, what support we can provide, what additional support we can provide to Ukraine, how we can secure the Eastern Neighborhood countries that they can feel safe in the event of an extension of the Russian provocation.

There is absolutely no tolerance within the Alliance for any other potential problems, nor can the Alliance be the venue for resolving any bilateral disputes between any members of the Alliance.

Angelos Athanasopoulos (To Vima): Mr President, I would like to ask you about the debate over Finland, Sweden and Turkey and the memorandum.

How much do you worry about the fact that two such advanced European democracies, such as Finland and Sweden, have essentially accepted the terms of a country that I think we all agree on -analysts, journalists and politicians- have clear authoritarian characteristics?

How much do you think this affects the image of NATO and may create some problems for us in the future?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I have read the memorandum that has been signed between Finland, Sweden and Turkey. It is quite a general text. I want to say openly that Turkey has some reasonable rights when it comes to the issue of terrorism that stems from Kurdish organizations. Turkey has paid a heavy price for such terrorist acts. It’s something, I think, we have no difficulty recognizing.

However, at the same time, as we said today at the Summit – something that both I and President Macron noted – there is not just one terrorism. There is also the wider Islamic terrorism, and in the context of the effort to counter Islamic terrorism, organizations and groups that fought against Islamic terrorism and ultimately led to its elimination and the defeat of the Islamic Caliphate cannot be targeted. So this issue is more complex.

I believe that, in the end, logic prevailed, Mr. Athanasopoulos. I do not think that Turkey would benefit the Alliance, but also Turkey’s position in the Alliance, if it had insisted on maintaining its veto beyond this Summit. The veto has been overcome. As I told you, it was overcome, in the end, very quickly. I think it was overcome quite effortlessly and this is something that is a positive development for the Alliance as a whole.

Xrysanthos Koseloglou (Alpha): Mr President, are you concerned that the Biden government intends to give Turkey the F-16 upgrades and sell new upgraded F-16s? And I ask this because there have been some reports in the Turkish press that President Biden has promised President Erdoğan that as soon as he returns home, he will work to get the approval of the Congress. And whether, at this point, Greece should once again send a message or contact the United States.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Mr. Koseloglou, the work of our country is -first and above all- to strengthen its own deterrent. It’s something we’ve done very well over the last three years, within our budgetary constraints.

Look at where Greece is today in terms of its defense capabilities compared to where it was three years ago, in terms of the very rapid addition of Rafale aircraft, the purchase of state-of-the-art frigates, the purchase of anti-submarine helicopters. And I mention only some of the programs that are being launched with a view to being implemented within the decade, so that we can be sure that Greece will always have the strongest possible deterrent force.

This is the overriding concern of every Greek government. And I must say that we did most of this without the support of the official opposition, which on the one hand is seamingly concerned because the Turkish F-16s may be upgraded, but on the other hand, it did not support important government choices, in terms of its defensive armor.

Beyond that, what I can say is that I did not see any reference to this issue in the White House press release. And I will also reiterate that the purchase of any weapon system from the United States is a long process, which does not simply require the willingness of the executive, it also requires the approval of Congress.

Alexia Tasouli (Open): Mr President, do you think that Tayyip Erdoğan negotiated the veto threat in the accession process of Sweden and Finland in exchange for the F-16s or even a meeting with the American President?

And a second question, do we have anything new regarding the F-35, if we have sent the Letter of Request and if we have any progress on this.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: On the first issue, I have given you an answer. I will say once again that I want us to consider whether it is in the interest of Greece for Turkey to be completely isolated.

This has never been the aim of Greek foreign policy. Greece forms its own alliances, projects the strength of its arguments and seeks the support of our allies regarding our national interests. However, at the same time, we want Turkey as an interlocutor. We do not want a Turkey that does not talk to anyone.

And I want to point out that we take care of our domestic issues. Personally, I made a very successful – I believe- visit to the United States. I had the honor to address the US Congress, which was a unique honor for me and for the country as a whole. And I will not comment further on what Turkey is doing or how it pursues its own foreign policy.

Now, on the issue of the F-35s, we have said that our intention is to acquire an F-35 squadron, with the possible option of acquiring a second one. Part of this process is sending the Letter of Request, which was done recently. It is the beginning – I want to emphasize – of a long process, as we do not estimate that we can receive these aircraft before 2027 or 2028.

I say this because it is a long process on the one hand and on the other hand, it is then that we have the budgetary space to be able to make such a purchase.

I believe that this is particularly important for our country to be able to plan significant defense investments in the long run. Within a decade, within fifteen years. This is our obligation, this is our responsibility, to shield the country and to take decisions that can be politically “beneficial” to our successors.

Nevertheless, I believe the country should work in this way, in terms of long-term planning for its foreign and defense policy.

Yannis Palaiologos (Kathimerini): In the last two months, we have seen Turkey adopt a tactic of obstruction on a very important issue for the future of NATO, while raising inflammatory rhetoric against Greece. There is also the fact that it does not apply the sanctions of the European Union against Russia. Mr Erdoğan arrived here at the Summit and we see that he received significant concessions from Sweden and Finland so as to give his consent. We have this alleged promise from Mr Biden concerning the F-16.

I wanted to ask you, do you think that the outcome of the Summit was successful for Turkey and that it might encourage Mr. Erdoğan to continue this tactic of obstruction in the future but also to raise the tension as he dims feet against Greece, because he sees that this does not have consequences?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I think, Mr Palaiologos, you should go to Mr Erdoğan’s press conference to ask him these questions. I answered on behalf of Greece, because I consider that this Summit was successful first for NATO – we are a member of the Alliance – and secondly for our country.

I have nothing more to add to these issues. I think I have answered adequately and your question has been covered by the answers I have given to your colleagues.