Greece’s prime minister has said he will extend “a hand of friendship” to the winner of Sunday’s election in the country’s neighbor and longtime regional rival Turkey but adds that he hopes the next government will “reconsider its approach toward the West,” The Associated Press reported.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, himself facing an election in just over a week, said he is willing to speak to whomever emerges victorious from Sunday’s polls in Turkey.
“But I’m not naive,” he told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview while on the campaign trail in central Greece on Thursday evening. “I know that foreign policies of countries don’t change from one day to the next.”
Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has led his country as prime minister and president since 2003, faces his most challenging election. Amid a faltering economy, Erdoğan has lost some ground to his main rival, the secular, center-left Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
Although not to the same level as with Greece, a fellow NATO member, Turkey’s relations with the United States and several European countries have seen strain. Turkey is blocking Sweden’s request to join NATO, pressing the country to crack down on Kurdish militants and other groups that Turkey regards as terrorist threats.
“I would hope that the next Turkish government would overall reconsider its approach towards the West, not just towards Greece, towards Europe, towards NATO, and towards the United States,” Mitsotakis said. “But again, I have to be a realist and not be too naive, and that is why we will continue with … our firm foreign policy. That means we will continue to strengthen our deterrence capabilities and our defense capabilities.”
Greece and Turkey have been at odds for decades over issues including their maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean. But bilateral relations in recent years plummeted to new lows that saw the two countries’ warships shadowing each other and Turkish officials suggesting they could invade Greek islands.
In response, Greece has embarked on an extensive military procurement program to modernize its armed forces, including purchasing advanced French-built fighter jets.