US seeks to resolve Greece-Türkiye dispute amid military buildup
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed Greece and Türkiye as their allies and vowed to help resolve their ‘differences’ while highlighting Greece-US strategic cooperation over a military base that has drawn the ire of Türkiye earlier.
Blinken traveled to Türkiye from Athens Tuesday, where he met Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and later, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In Athens, he held a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, the highest-ranking official from Greece, to visit Türkiye after Feb. 6 earthquakes which killed thousands in Türkiye’s south.
U.S. Secretary of State urged Greece and Türkiye to resolve differences and avoid unilateral actions that could increase tension.
The top U.S. diplomat’s visit was a follow-up to a high-level Strategic Dialogue meeting held in 2021 between the two countries and an amendment to Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) between the two countries.
“The planned inclusion of Alexandroupolis in the MDCA allowed it to play a crucial role when it was most needed,” Dendias said at the joint press conference. Meanwhile, Blinken said: “The agreement strengthened our preparedness and shared security by allowing our troops to train together in new ways and more places.”
He said Alexandroupoli (Dedeağaç) was among key strategic hubs for new sites to support military transport across Greece, bringing in “defensive weaponry, trucks, artillery for U.S. military units operating in Eastern and Northern Europe, as well as NATO Allies.”
Turkish officials, including President Erdoğan, denounced U.S. military buildup in Greece. “Greece, as a whole, has turned into a U.S. military base,” President Erdoğan said in 2021.
Last September, Erdoğan said that Türkiye would not hesitate to utilize all means to protect its rights and interests, as he called on Greece to refrain from provocative actions and violations, criticizing Athens for escalating tensions in the Aegean. After a Cabinet meeting in September 2022, Erdoğan said Türkiye was closely monitoring Greece’s provocative actions and violations.
He noted Greece is being “dragged into a swamp with military buildups.” The president reiterated that Greece is not at Türkiye’s level and is not equal politically, economically, or military-wise and the military buildup will not help Athens to reach Türkiye’s level. “We will not hesitate to utilize all available means to protect our country’s rights and interests against Greece, whereby necessary,” the president said.
Though they are allies and neighbors, Greece and Türkiye are at odds over various issues, from mineral rights in the Aegean to airspace and over Cyprus question. Tensions have flared recently, but Greece was among the first countries to send rescue workers to help pull survivors from the rubble after the earthquakes.
Dendias received a warm welcome from Çavuşoğlu during his visit as both ministers expressed hope to resolve the issues between the two countries.
“It is in the interest of both Greece and Türkiye to find ways to resolve longstanding differences, to do it through dialogue, through diplomacy – and in the meantime to not take any unilateral actions or use any charged rhetoric that would only make things more difficult and more challenging,” Blinken said at the news conference.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, alongside Blinken, said Athens was not expecting anything in exchange for the support it had sent Türkiye, which included tents, beds and blankets to support the hundreds of thousands left homeless. “We must help our fellow humans who are suffering, and we will continue to do so,” Dendias said. “If communication between both societies improves the climate of our relations, this, of course, has political consequences. But I repeat, Greece is not seeking trade-offs from the Turkish side via the aid provided to the earthquake victims.”
Blinken said Athens and Washington were working together to strengthen regional energy security and reduce reliance on Russian gas. Greece and Türkiye could only benefit from resolving their differences. “I do believe that there is an interest and an intent in both countries to resolve longstanding differences, to make this part of the world that they share an area of cooperation not of conflict,” Blinken said.