Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias has asked his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo to stop selling weapons to Turkey since they may be used on Greece and other regional countries, the Hellas Journal has reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo met Kotzias for a “strategic dialogue” in Washington as Turkey’s relations with its NATO allies in Greece and the United States continue to endure a particularly rough patch.
Among the problems plaguing Turkey and Greece are disputed islets in the Aegean Sea, where dogfights and military exercises have been ramping up along with increasingly belligerent rhetoric from both sides.
Turkey’s refusal to accept gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean by the Republic of Cyprus and its partners has further added to the tension, as has the arrest in Turkey of two Greek soldiers who strayed across the border during a patrol in March.
As a result, the subject of Turkey “dominated” the meeting between the pair, according to the Greek Reporter news site.
The Greek foreign minister told Pompeo that weapons purchased by Turkey from the United States and Germany could be used against Greece, Cyprus and other neighbouring countries, Hellas Journal reported.
The arms trade with Turkey has become a controversial topic in Germany and the United States, with proposals ongoing in both countries’ parliament to halt weapons sales.
Pompeo raised the issue of the jailed Greek servicemen, calling it “unacceptable for a NATO member-state to detain two officers of the Greek army.”
The pair also discussed the Eastern Mediterranean and agreed to “work closely” to ensure stability in the region. Kotzias at this point brought up Turkey’s “violations of international law, especially in terms of the Cyprus Republic’s sovereign rights,” according to the Greek Reporter.
Turkey has maintained a military presence on the island since its invasion in response to the Cypriot coup d’etat in 1974. Ankara does not diplomatically recognize the Republic of Cyprus, and has been blocking gas exploration by the republic and its partners in the rich gas fields surrounding the island on the basis that this violates the rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to the island’s resources.
The Hellas Journal article quotes a “high-level Greek diplomat” as saying the United States aims to increase its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in order to safeguard Israeli, Greek and Egyptian hydrocarbon operations in the region.