Turkey-Greece relations are once again breaking down after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said this week he no longer recognizes the leader of neighboring Greece, further rejecting a planned summit wherein the two were set to meet. It marks the latest inter-NATO rift, amid the ongoing spat related to Finland and Sweden's bids to join the Western military alliance.
Turkey is outraged over recent comments by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announcing his country's intent to acquire the Lockheed Martin produced F-35 stealth fighter jet, after Turkey was previously blocked from the program during the Trump administration in 2019. At the same time while Mitsotakis visited the White House last week, he's reported to have been strongly "lobbying against Turkey’s attempts to upgrade its aging fleet of F-16s and acquire additional aircraft." All of this appears too much of a humiliation for Erdogan to sit idly by.
“We will launch the process for the acquisition of a squadron of F-35 aircraft, and we do hope to be able to add this fantastic plane to the Greek Air Force before the end of this decade,” Mitsotakis had said at the White House. He also affirmed that Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-35s and F-16s, "officially expressed its interest in investing in Hellenic aerospace" in statements just prior to his Washington trip.
On Tuesday Erdogan reacted fiercely to these latest reports, saying, "There's no longer anyone called Mitsotakis in my book." The words came after he was briefed during a cabinet meeting. "I will never agree to have a meeting with him because we only walk on the same path as politicians who keep their promises who have character and who are honorable.”
Erdogan charged the Greek PM with actively trying to block the sale of the F-16 fighters. But he stressed that the United States "will make up its own mind on selling F-16s" regardless. The BBC adds, describing Erdogan's words to reporters:
Mr Erdogan said this amounted to lobbying US officials against Turkey and violated an agreement "not to involve third countries" in disputes between Ankara and Athens.
Athens responded to the fresh accusations by saying it would not get into "confrontation of statements" over the issue.
I can’t wait for Turkey’s reaction if Greece acquires the F-35 https://t.co/RKBGMafIU8
— ??? ??? ???? (@leithfadel) May 24, 2022
Erdogan further took the opportunity to accuse Greece once again of providing safe-haven to terrorists, something he's also in past days lashed out at Sweden over amid its attempt to join NATO. Calling Greece's own admission into NATO in 1980 a "mistake" – the Turkish leader has said Greece is harboring the "Gülenist Terror Group FETÖ".
Greece and Turkey have also long been historically at odds over the status of Cyprus, but also in recent years energy exploration rights around the island-nation, as well as in Greece-recognized waters that Turkish drilling ships are accused of repeatedly violating.