Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos sent a stern message to Turkey regarding its belligerent stance in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.
Speaking to journalists Makis Pollatos and Christos Bokas on Thema Radio 104.6 on Friday morning, the Minister made it clear that Greece was not standing idly by in the face of Turkish aggression in the region, pointing out that the Armed Forces were exploring a series of scenarios to prevent a possible “hot” incident in Kastelorizo in the near future.
Mr. Panagiotopoulos said: “We are also preparing ways to deal with the possible presence of a Turkish oil research vessel in our territorial waters … we will not stand idly by”
However, the Minister of National Defence insisted that the channels of communication with the neighbouring country should remain “open and at all levels” and that “the dialogue on confidence-building measures (CBMs) should continue even in times of tension”.
Commenting on Turkey’s policy in the Eastern Mediterranean but also on recent statements by Mr Tayyip Erdogan who claimed Turkey’s survival and national integrity are in jeopardy in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Defence Minister said it was Erdogan’s perspective. “It translates into a sense of suffocation and gives us a sense of how they are thinking in Turkey right now. They feel cornered and insecure at the same time.”
Commenting on the freezing of the sale of the US F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, Mr. Panagiotopoulos stressed that it is a blow to Turkey and a positive development for Greece.
However, the defence minister has made clear that Greece was not interested, “at least at this juncture,” in acquiring the F-35s. “The priority is,” he said, “to upgrade the F-16s and the Mirage fighters”.
The Minister went on to say that building a strong Navy in the greater Mediterranean region was in the immediate priorities of Greece, while he also referred to the upgrading of existing weapons systems, while he did not fail to point out the shortcomings in the weapons’ range.
On Greek-Cypriot relations, he reiterated that Greece and Cyprus shared common goals, adding that Greece was acting as a defence shield which included Cyprus.
He continued by pointing out the illegal Turkish actions in the EEZ of Cyprus constituted a blatant violation of the rights of Cyprus and therefore the European Union.
Mr. Panagiotopoulos said Greece has established itself as a real force of stability in the region. “The United States has realised that we are a firm ally and we will also have corresponding benefits,” Nikos Panagiotopoulos said, while also talking about boosting defence cooperation between the two countries.