Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ Press Conference upon the completion of the NATO Summit in Vilnius

Nikos Meletis (ERT): Mr Prime Minister, this apparent willingness of Erdoğan to turn to the West again, do you think it is sincere and will it last or is it a pretext in order to secure something for the F-16s and to strengthen the economy of his country? And also, whether the Turkish President raised the issue of Greece’s armaments.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: What I can tell you, Mr Meletis, is that my meeting with the Turkish President was held in a good atmosphere.

We agreed that we need to build on the positive developments of the last few months, after the earthquakes in Turkey and after the practical support that both the Greek Government and Greek society provided to the Turkish people, I think that many things have changed as regards the psychology of our relations. Our meeting today reaffirmed the willingness, both mine and President Erdoğan’s, for a new restart of Greek-Turkish relations, but also for a – I would say – clearer channel, a road map, for how we will move forward in the coming months.

As it was written in the announcement, our intention is to be able to meet again before the end of the year at a High-Level Cooperation Council level, in Thessaloniki, with an obviously positive agenda on the “menu”.

This, of course, does not mean that the important problems that we have with Turkey have been magically solved, but I believe that it indicates the willingness of both leaders to revisit the framework of our relations from a more positive angle, and this is what I consider to be the most important conclusion of today’s meeting.

Giannis Kantelis (SKAI): Mr Prime Minister, may I ask you if this road map that you mentioned yesterday includes exploratory contacts? When can we expect them to start – which is where the critical issues relating to maritime zones are – the confidence-building measures? And finally, if you raised the issue of Thrace, as you had said during the pre-election period, at this meeting.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: What I can tell you is that the framework that I envision in terms of how to flesh out this desire for better cooperation has essentially three axes.

The first is the political dialogue, under the guidance of the two Foreign Affairs Ministers, in which obviously the important, the weighty geopolitical issues will be raised, with the most important one being the key issue which we consider to be our dispute with Turkey, namely the delimitation of maritime zones, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf, in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The second channel is the Confidence Building Measures, which can bear more fruit by building on the positive momentum of recent months.

And the third axis is the so-called positive agenda. It is a work that has been carried out by the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Fragogiannis, which was prepared before this meeting. It concerns issues of economic cooperation, energy cooperation, cooperation possibly in areas such as civil protection. This is an area in which I believe that we can – relatively quickly – achieve some tangible results, so that these can be formalised, hopefully, at the High-Level Cooperation Council in Thessaloniki before the end of the year.

I would also like to remind you that the issue of EU-Turkish relations will be discussed at the level of the European Council. The European Council, as you know, has in the past taken decisions regarding the framework of relations between the European Union and Turkey. You remember, because you had covered these issues, that it had opened two paths for Turkey: the good path and the less good path. Our intention is to take the positive path. And certainly the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations can only help Turkey’s overall rapprochement with the European Union, since I have no reason to doubt that this intention of Turkey seems to be sincere at the moment.

Finally, on the issue you asked me about, of course these issues were raised. But obviously I will not go into great detail about what was discussed behind closed doors with President Erdoğan.

Giannis Christakos (MEGA): Mr Prime Minister, I would like to ask you about the other meetings you had. With Mr Macron – coincidentally, today was also the steel-cutting for our third frigate – and with Mr Scholz, whom you saw after the meeting with Mr Macron. But I would also like to know what happened at the meeting with Mr Rama, with regard to the imprisonment of Fredi Beleri, if we have any developments from there. Thank you.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: My meetings with my colleagues on the European Council are not news. With President Macron we had the opportunity to reaffirm the excellent framework of our cooperation on many levels, including in the defence field. At the end of September, we will also have the launching of the first frigate, which is the first frigate that is currently being built in the shipyards of Lorient.

We may be able to meet there together at some point to monitor the progress of the work, but we have many other issues on the agenda of the European Council, from the issues concerning Ukraine – which is the main subject of this Summit – to issues which have to do with migration.

Obviously the same applies to Chancellor Scholz and the discussions we had.

Now, with my Albanian counterpart, Mr Rama, I have reiterated once again that this is an issue that needs to be resolved. It is a matter which regards the rule of law, I want to stress this, when an elected mayor is imprisoned without any valid charges and is held in prison without being able to be sworn in. These are things that should not happen in a country that has put the European rule of law at the forefront of the reforms it wants to implement in order to move closer to the European Union.

I think my message was clear: I respect the independence of the Albanian judiciary, but on the other hand I think we all understand that this issue must be resolved soon.

Spiros Mourelatos (ANT1): Mr Prime Minister, before the Summit, the President of the United States, Mr Biden, had described an increase in military cooperation and armaments from the United States to Greece and Turkey. And we are informed that he seems to be unblocking the F-16 issue. Turkey seems to be getting both the upgrade it wanted and new F-16s.

I would like to ask whether the objections and safeguards that the Congress has set up, and you obviously may be in a position to know this, are valid as far as their use against NATO, American and Greek interests are concerned, and whether in the near future you can inform us of any positive developments regarding our own armaments programme from the United States. Thank you.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Mr Mourelatos, I can talk about the relations between the United States and Greece, which are – I would say – stronger than ever. I even had the opportunity to talk to President Biden on the sidelines of the Summit. We reaffirmed the very high level of our cooperation. In my intervention, which I have just made on the occasion of the debate on Ukraine, I reiterated the great importance of the port of Alexandroupolis, not only for the United States but also for the supply of troops and equipment to the entire eastern wing of NATO.

And yes, what I can tell you is that in the context of the cooperation between Greece and the United States we will have – I believe soon – some positive news about how the United States intends to further strengthen the Greek Armed Forces, in the context of the strategic cooperation that we have.

Now, from there, what the United States does with Turkey is something that, as you understand, concerns us only indirectly. What I can tell you is that the stance of Congress on this issue seems to be well known, I don’t want to say anything more. It remains to be seen how the request from the US administration to Congress will be formulated.

I think it’s common ground that the armaments that are given to NATO member countries should not be used against other NATO member countries. But this, as I said, is not something that directly concerns Greece.

What I can reiterate is the excellent level of United States-Greece relations and the way in which the United States sees Greece as a factor of stability – geopolitical, economic, energy stability – in the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.

Maria Psara (STAR): Mr Prime Minister, how much did Turkey’s European perspective affect the green light given by Turkish President Erdoğan for Sweden’s accession to NATO? And finally, is this report on EU-Turkish relations, which the European Commission will be drafting, and Turkey’s own relationship with the European Union, still going through Athens and Nicosia?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Athens and Nicosia are sitting at the European Council table. Therefore, it is obvious that an improvement in Turkey’s relations with the European Union is certainly directly related to the view that both Greece and Nicosia have of the progress we can achieve. From there on, as I said before, we will discuss the issue of Turkey again.

I want to stress this -I have always said this, even in the most difficult moments of Greek-Turkish relations- that we have no strategic benefit with a Turkey that is directly opposed to the West, to the European Union, to the United States.

It is in Greece’s interest for Turkey to play by our rules. With the rules of International Law, with the rules of the multilateral schemes in which it participates, such as NATO, or the multilateral schemes with which it wants to have a closer relationship, such as the European Union.

I want to reiterate that we are at the beginning – both I and President Erdoğan – of a new government term and I have no reason at this time to doubt the sincerity of his intentions.

Is this a shift from what we have seen from Turkey recently? Yes, it is a shift. It is prοbably an adjustment to reality. But I have an obligation, especially when I have no evidence to the contrary, to see the glass half-full and not half-empty.

Alexandra Fotaki (To Vima – Ta Nea): Mr Prime Minister, you referred to the High-Level Cooperation Council. I wanted to ask what issues you will focus on in building this positive climate and deepening relations and whether you see that within the framework of the already existing dialogue, such as the exploratory talks, there should be a development, a next day.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I told you that in the context of the political dialogue, within which the exploratory contacts fall, we are ready to examine the level of discussions also in the context of Ministers, not just of representatives in exploratory talks.

From there on, I will repeat what I said: the problems have not been magically solved, nor can we talk about a completely different day, because we are not forgetting what happened four years ago. But we are cautiously optimistic that we can turn over a new leaf and that we have an obligation to our peoples to ensure that we live in peace and without being in a state of permanent tension, even if – I will say it again, I have said it many times – even if we cannot immediately or in the foreseeable future resolve our one fundamental difference, which is the delimitation of maritime zones.

There have been periods of very good relations with Turkey in the past, when this issue was obviously not resolved, but it was not an obstacle to building a framework of good relations and certainly not being in a state of permanent tension, not being “in red alert mode”, to put it very simply, in terms of the activity of our Armed Forces.

I believe that through the Confidence Building Measures route, which has essentially been informal in recent months and has given concrete signs, I believe that we can, through mutual goodwill gestures, defuse possible sources of future tension. And there should also be an open channel of communication so that when a difficulty or problem arises – which can always happen – these problems can be defused as they arise and do not linger or run the risk of leading to any escalation.

Sofia Fasoulaki (OPEN): Mr President, I wanted to ask, because there were reports a few days ago from Turkey that Mr Erdoğan might have raised the issue of our country’s armaments, was such an issue raised by the Turkish President towards us? Thank you very much.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Look, no such issue was raised and no such issue could have been raised, just as I would not raise the issue of Turkey’s ability to arm itself, as long as it does not actually threaten Greek sovereignty and our sovereign rights.

The armament programme of the Greek Armed Forces, obviously under the absolute approval of the Greek Government, is on track, not open to substantial modifications. It is a programme which not only shields the Armed Forces but also contributes to NATO as a whole and to the concept of the strategic autonomy of Europe.

In other words, we should not see investment in the Armed Forces only through the prism of our rivalry with Turkey, and this also applies to us, how we see Turkey’s ability to be able to equip itself.

I stress that what we have always been concerned about is that NATO armaments should not be used for violations of sovereignty and sovereign rights. Beyond that, however, each country has the right and the ability to arm itself as it sees fit to best serve its own national priorities.

Chrisanthos Koseloglou (ALPHA): Mr Prime Minister, I wanted to ask you if you saw a different Erdoğan this time. We are used to many times in closed meetings when the Turkish side opens the whole span of claims. I wanted to ask you if this time Mr. Erdoğan chose to do so.

You said that there will be more contacts at ministerial level. Will they happen at the level of heads of state? Did you discuss the next meeting you will have? And would you go to Turkey to visit him?

And finally, because we saw that you raised the issue of migration at the Summit, did you ask for something specific from NATO.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: On the issue of migration, I think that migration flows in the Mediterranean are a hybrid threat to the stability of the European Union and therefore NATO. It is an issue that we have discussed many times and I think we should also raise it at the level of the Alliance. Of course, we are also very concerned about what is happening in the Pacific Ocean, in the Indo-Pacific. That is why we have had Heads of State and Government from the East and from Oceania participating in our Summit today. But we should be equally and more concerned about what is happening in our immediate neighborhood, and I am referring to North Africa.

Beyond that, I will stick to what I said before: we are making what I would call a cautious new beginning with Turkey, and obviously this also adapts the issues that come into the discussion. I think that Turkey knows very well which are the issues that Greece is not discussing.