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Greek Leader Says He Will Discuss ‘Aggressive’ Turkey With Trump

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 1/7/2020 Sotiris Nikas and Paul Tugwell

(Bloomberg) -- Greece is getting worried about Turkey’s efforts to impose its authority on the eastern Mediterranean and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis plans to raise the issue with Donald Trump.

The Greeks are concerned that Turkey could start drilling for oil and gas in its waters after its neighbor sealed a maritime-border deal with Libya in December. Ankara is already locked in a dispute with the European Union over its exploration activities off the coast of Cyprus and officials in Athens would feel obliged to respond if Turkey repeated that maneuver in a stretch of sea recognized as Greek by an international maritime treaty.

Turkey added to the tensions by agreeing to send troops to support the UN-backed government in Libya.

Turkey is behaving in an “aggressive manner,” Mitsotakis said at the Atlantic Council in Washington Tuesday . “It’s unacceptable to have a NATO ally member provoke another ally member and this shouldn’t be brushed aside in the context of the alliance,” he said.

Mitsotakis said Sunday he will discuss with President Trump the dangers that Turkey’s behavior raises for peace and security in the region.

The Greek premier plans to make the case to Trump at a meeting Tuesday that Greece provides stability in a volatile part of the world, an official in Athens said.

Following the contentious maritime deal early last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan secured a one-year mandate on Jan. 2 to send troops to Libya following a request from its prime minister, Fayez Mustafa Al-Sarraj. The move triggered protests from the U.S., Italy, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt as well as Greece.

Turkish parliamentary approval for the troop deployment came on the day that Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement for the construction of the EastMed gas pipeline that will connect the eastern Mediterranean basin to Europe. That deal, backed by the U.S., provoked Turkey’s objections.

Any project that disregards Turkey “cannot succeed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

“Greece won’t tolerate any infringement of our sovereign rights in our exclusive economic zone,” Mitsotakis said in Washington. Greece and the U.S. will also discuss ways to strengthen the strategic relationship between the two countries, he said.

Military Cooperation

During the meeting with Trump, the Greek premier will argue that Turkey’s actions are destabilizing and that Erdogan’s government has pursued a stream of initiatives that undermine western interests.

Mitsotakis wants to strengthen Greece’s defense capabilities by upgrading its U.S.-made F-16 fighters and will raise the possibility of buying the more sophisticated F-35 fighters with Trump. He also wants to discuss the possibility of a joint project to manufacture military drones and security issues relating to the roll out of 5G networks.

In October, the U.S. and Greece signed a mutual defense cooperation agreement that envisages U.S. forces using part of Alexandroupolis port, close to the Turkish border. Under the deal, U.S. liquefied natural gas will also be imported to an offshore storage and regasification unit in Greece.

The business-friendly premier will meet with investors during his two-day visit to Washington, as he tries to attract funds to an economy that has lost about 25% of its output during the debt crisis.

Mitsotakis will also hold talks with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva in a bid to negotiate more room to maneuver on Greece’s budget.

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will host a dinner for Mitsotakis on Wednesday night.

(Adds Mitsotakis comment in fourth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Sotiris Nikas in Athens at snikas@bloomberg.net;Paul Tugwell in Athens at ptugwell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Ben Sills, Richard Bravo

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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