Greece's prime minister said that he cannot imagine that tensions with neighbouring NATO ally Turkey could ever escalate into armed conflict. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke at a press conference Sunday at the Thessaloniki International Fair, where he gave the keynote speech Saturday outlining his government's economic policy goals.
Asked by The Associated Press whether a recent escalation in rhetoric from Turkey, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, could be the prelude to an armed conflict, Mitsotakis replied negatively. "I don't believe this will ever happen. And if, God forbid, it happened, Turkey would receive an absolutely devastating response. And I think they know it very well. Turkey knows the competence of the Greek [armed] forces," he said.
Earlier, Turkey's president had doubled down on a thinly veiled invasion threat and Athens responded that it is ready to defend its sovereignty. Turkey and Greece have decades-old disputes over an array of issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and disagreements over the airspace.
Turkey has accused Greece of using Russian-made S-300 missile systems in Crete to lock onto Turkish jets in August. Ankara has also said Greek F-16s harassed Turkish jets by putting them under a radar lock during a NATO mission over the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey is submitting complaints with NATO. Athens has also accused Turkey of violating its airspace.
Although both NATO members, Turkey and Greece have decades-old disputes over an array of issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and disagreements over the airspace there. The friction has brought them to the brink of war three times in the last half-century. Turkey claims Greece is violating international agreements by militarising islands in the Aegean Sea. "You occupying the islands doesn't bind us," Erdogan had said. "When the time comes, we'll do what's necessary. As we say, we may come down suddenly one night."