Greek leader warns Congress against weapons sales to Turkey

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday warned a joint session of Congress against supporting the Biden administration’s proposed military sales to Turkey, saying such a move could create additional instability in the region.

“The last thing that NATO needs, at a time when our focus is on helping Ukraine defeat Russia’s aggression, is another source of instability on NATO’s southeastern flank,” Mitsotakis said without referring to Turkey by name.

“And I ask you to take this into account when you make defense procurement decisions concerning the eastern Mediterranean.”

The Biden administration is asking Congress to approve the sale of advanced weapons and other military equipment to NATO-ally Turkey. The package is largely to allow Ankara to upgrade its fleet of F-16 fighter jets, but is being viewed as laying the groundwork of a possible sale of dozens more F-16s. 

The move has garnered pushback from advocacy organizations that are invested in U.S. relations in the region. 

Mitsotakis also said that “overflights over Greek islands,” which Greece has accused Turkey of carrying out, “must stop immediately.” 

“I want to be absolutely clear, we will not accept open acts of aggression,” the Greek leader said. Greece is also a NATO ally.

Turkey has reportedly rejected the accusations, accusing Greece of provocative moves in the region. 

Mitsotakis reiterated his position that Greece would never accept a two-state solution in Cyprus — the independent island is divided between the ruling Greek Cypriots and the Turkish-occupied region in the north — and pressed Congress to support the position of Athens.

“I ask you esteemed members of Congress not to forget an open wound that has caused Hellenism unending pain over the past 48 years. I’m referring to the invasion and subsequent division of Cyprus,” Mitsotakis said. 

“This issue has to be resolved in accordance with international law and in line with the relevant decisions of the United Nations Security Council. As I told President Biden yesterday, nobody can, nobody ever will accept a two state solution in Cyprus,” the prime minister continued, receiving a standing ovation from the House and Senate lawmakers. 

The Greek prime minister is in Washington marking 200 years since the Greek revolution, when it gained independence from the Ottoman Empire, the precursor to modern-day Turkey. 

Mitsotakis used his speech to Congress to draw parallels between Russia’s war in Ukraine and the threats facing Greece, while reinforcing the strong bonds between the U.S. and Greece and their shared commitment to democracy. Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova attended the speech in the House chamber. 

Mitsotakis said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will not succeed” with his invasion of Ukraine.

“He must not succeed, not only for the sake of Ukraine, but also in order to send a message, in order to send the message to all other authoritarian leaders that historical revisionism and open acts of aggression that violate international law will not be tolerated by the global community of democratic states,” he said. 

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