Joint press conference by NATO Secretary General and Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic (Q&As)

Questions and answers following the Joint press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

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(speaks in foreign language)

[Antenna TV] This is a question to both of you. Are you really worried about the stance of Turkey in Syria and the wider region, in the wider Mediterranean, that is? Do you expect an escalation of the crisis in this region. And then, Mr. Mitsotakis, the fact that we are verbally condemning NATO and the EU are condemning the actions of Turkey, does it suffice? Do you think we have to make more practical steps in the near future?

I have stated that I count on Turkey to show restraint and to ensure that their actions in northern Syria are measured and proportionate and avoid even more human suffering. We have to remember that we need to continue to stand together in our common fight against the common enemy, which is ISIS. The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which Greece is part of, NATO is part of the Coalition led by the United States, Turkey is part of the Coalition, we have together made enormous progress in the fight against ISIS. Not so long ago, ISIS controlled a territory as big as the United Kingdom, eight million people, they were threatening Baghdad. And now we have liberated all that territory, all the people living in that territory and we must make sure that we preserve those gains. ISIS doesn’t control any territory anymore, but they are still present there on the ground in Iraq, in Syria, but also, for instance, in Afghanistan. So NATO does a lot, NATO will continue to fight international terrorism. This is important for our own safety, but it’s also important to address the root causes of the migrant and refugee crisis. So when we work for a political solution to the crisis in Syria, when we help the Iraqi government to fight the Daesh or ISIS, and we work with Afghanistan, all of that is about helping to stabilise these countries and therefore also addressing the root causes for the migrant and refugee crisis. And Greece being on the front line, of course, understands the importance of that. We don’t stop and reduce our efforts in fighting a common enemy, ISIS. (speaks in foreign language)

As of day one, Greece has condemned these new unilateral military operations on behalf of Turkey within the territory of Syria. We were fully on the side of the European Union, we share the same views, it’s clear that the solution in Syria has to be a political one and any unilateral military actions and activities won’t help in that direction. Actually, it’s the other way around. This is a country that has been deeply wounded by eight years of a civil war which, civil war in Syria, led to the biggest migration flows we’ve ever experienced over the past few decades. And so it is imperative that we avoid making steps that would lead to another humanitarian crisis and that could possibly make more difficult a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Let me also dwell, in particular, on what the Secretary General just referred to. Next to the political solution to a highly complicated issue, it is common ground for the world community, for the global community, the quest to absolutely eliminate all the foci of ISIS or Daesh. That’s an extreme version of terrorism that exists within the Syrian territory. And, of course, nothing is certain, it’s anything but certain that this intervention now, knowing what’s going on the side, would possibly allow the formerly defeated and scattered forces to possibly now regroup, and, you know, the front and the war and the effort that’s been exerted by the global community and NATO and the European Union and all the countries that are interested in combating terror, this front has to be unbroken, it has to be undivided, it has to be strong, and I’m afraid that the, what happens now will not serve that purpose, our purpose. But then again, these are issues that are certainly talked about on the level of the European Union as well. And you know very well, Mr. Kotari, that there is a European summit, it’s due next week, and during that next summit of the EU, no doubt of the national initiatives that have also been undertaken, the refugee migration issue will be on the agenda. Of course, by default, there will be discussions about Syria. (speaks in foreign language)

[Translator] Off microphone, unfortunately. Microphone please. From what we can hear, apparently. In the Cypriot EZ, and also in the HGMC, there are more actions. We regret not being able to interpret, apparently the microphone is not working. (speaks in foreign language)

[Interpreter] Thank you. (speaks in foreign language)

Thank you. Now, I will redirect my question, if I may, said the lady. Now, do you intend to take a clear stance as concerns that Turkish provocations in the Aegean and the Cypriot EZ, given that NATO, time and again, has been accused of keeping equal distances from Greece and Turkey. Every time that Turkey violates the international law at the expense of another country that is a NATO Ally, and which is, as is generally acknowledged, an exemplary ally, and to Mr. Mitsotakis, Mr. Prime Minister, this morning you stated that the European Union will react immediately, vis a vis the Turkish provocations, during the next EU summit. Should we expect you to announce a number of violations? And if there are certain upcoming violations, what will they be about, thank you.

As I already said, NATO is present in the Aegean Sea. We are present there in our naval mission to help curb the illegal flow of migrants. And we have, together with the EU, with, of course, Turkey and Greece, been able to significantly reduce the numbers compared to the level of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea a few years ago. I know there has been now an increase again, but I think it’s fair to say that the efforts of the EU and NATO, Greece, Turkey, has had an effect and has helped to reduce their numbers. I think the NATO presence in the Aegean Sea is important, because the presence of a NATO naval mission there brings together Turkey, the European Union–

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