Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was hailed in Greece following a tough-talking press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
In what many said was a departure from the typical diplomatic niceties when foreign ministers meet, Dendias kept his composure while coming out swinging, rattling off a series of Greek complaints against Turkish aggressiveness in the region.
The press conference opened with Cavusoglu praising “the very positive dialogue” he just held in Ankara with Dendias and stating that disputes with Greece can be handled with dialogue and not provocative rhetoric and actions.
Perhaps the irony of Cavusoglu’s comments caught Dendias off guard— after all, it has been Turkey that has repeatedly escalated the tensions with Greece in the region both with threats of war, as well as a host of destabilizing actions, including the weaponizing of migrants who were encouraged by Turkish officials to storm the Greek border, as well as the repeated violations of Greek air and sea borders.
Dendias’ response surprised many in Greece for their frankness, while Turks called them undiplomatic and aggressive.
At one point during his response to Cavusoglu, he turned to him and called him out by his first name to drive his point home.
“Turkey has violated International Law in the Aegean and in the Eastern Mediterranean, as much as it has violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Dendias lashed out. “And not only that, Turkey has also violated our sovereign rights by flying over Greece soil 400 times. Mavlut, over Greek soil. No law allows flying over foreign territory— and I’m not referring to the sea,” Dendias said.
Dendias also fired back at Cavusoglu’s comments about troops on Greek islands and his repeated call to Greece to demilitarize them. “Is there anybody who could say there is no threat across from the islands?”
Dendias didn’t stop there, continuing his list of complaints with Turkey, and concluding with perhaps, the single one-liner of the entire press conference that summarizes Dendias’ gloves-off handling with Turkey.
Regarding the migration crisis, Dendias said, “I honestly believe that after the events of February and March, Turkey should be trying to teach Greece anything about migration.”
Lena Argiri, the DC Correspondent for ERT, the Greek Public Broadcasting Company, called the incident the “enough is enough point in Greek diplomatic history” in an episode of the Greek Current podcast, adding that Dendias’ bold comments made him a “hero overnight in Greece.”
Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, called Dendias’ handling “masterful.”
“For far too long, the US and the EU have sent mixed signals to Turkey and thus unwittingly encouraged Ankara’s worst tendencies. Minister Dendias’ masterful assertion of Greece’s positions and rights was the latest expression of ‘No more’ by the Mitsotakis government. Combined with unambiguous signaling now coming from Washington, from the region and even from Europe following Sofagate, the bully that is the Republic of Turkey finally sees others standing up to it,” Zemenides said in a statement to The Pappas Post.
The opposite rang true across the Aegean in Turkey where politicians and media alike branded Dendias as “undiplomatic,” “rude,” and “unstatesmanlike.”
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