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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

The Minister of National Defence Evangelos Apostolakis Answers Questions by Journalists During the Press Conference for the “DEFENCE EXHIBITION ATHENS’’ (DEFEA) Held at the Armed Forces Officers Club

Journalist’s Question: I would like to initially submit a question to the Minister and then to the panel. Whoever wishes may answer. A new trilateral meeting between Greece, Cyprus and Lebanon is taking place, at this very moment, in Lebanon - Beirut. I would like to ask if this exhibition can go hand in hand with the diplomacy of trilateral cooperations established recently by Greece (Greece – Cyprus - Israel, Greece – Cyprus – Egypt, now Lebanon and so forth). That is to say, is there a connection of this effort, which begins for the benefit of the defence industry, to the diplomatic – military environment where we find ourselves in? Thank you very much.

E. APOSTOLAKIS: Mr Blaveris, I think that it is obvious that this effort is interconnected, independently of what happens with the exhibition, regarding these trilateral and multilateral cooperations. Because cooperation is conducted in all levels. It is a relation of trust between cooperating states, which share the same concerns, face the same threats and as you can see, the result up until now has been exceptional.

So the expansion and improvement of cooperation, the interconnection of defence industries of these states with that of Greece, can be nothing but positive. We have high expectations that things will get better. From what we comprehend and what we have seen, all the Greek companies in the field of defence technology, did not stop designing or remaining active during the crisis. On the contrary, they elevated themselves, they entered the international market. Right now most cooperations are conducted with foreign states and this happened from the moment the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence ceased the conduct of some programmes or discontinued the activities of past years. However, I think that this initiative will help us a lot in the future, because we will be able to demonstrate our capabilities here in Greece.

Journalist’s Question: Minister, some US congressmen have taken an initiative, which I think will change the situation in the region. It pertains to a Pentagon report which includes Turkey’s activity in the Aegean and the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone, free military assistance to Greece, enhancement of the trilateral cooperation between Greece, Israel and Cyprus etc. What are your comments on this issue?

E. APOSTOLAKIS: My comment is that developments are heading to the right direction. Greece is promoted as an essential actor in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean. Due to the problems that Turkey is currently facing, Greece’s role is promoted even more. I believe that this is the first time that the US Congress demonstrates interest even for the violations happening in the region of Cyprus, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean. As you are aware, we have asked for the briefing and recording of all the violations and harassments that have taken place.

I believe that this must make us optimistic, because it demonstrates that Greece’s stance, the way it handles international issues, all our efforts to preserve tranquility, peace and security in the region, have promoted Greece to a very reliable actor in the field of defence and security. My estimation is that we will have even better results. Of course as you are aware, this is one of the first results of the strategic dialogue we have commenced with the USA, which means that this strategic dialogue is active and everything discussed is on implementation course.

Journalist’s Question: Minister, are you worried about the latest development between Moscow and Ankara with the S-400 after the meeting between Putin and Erdogan? It is said that the S-400 will be part of Ankara’s armaments by July. Thank you.

E. APOSTOLAKIS: The acquisition of the S-400 by Ankara is something that worries us since it was announced. It is an arising capability for the neighbouring country which cannot be considered defensive, as is characterised by Turkey. You can see that there is a very serious crisis in US-Turkish relations because of this issue. We are following developments, our positions are clear, our views have been submitted and we are waiting for a better development.