The Minister of National Defence, Panos Kammenos, accompanied by the Deputy Chief of Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Lieutenant General Konstantinos Floros, visited units of the Hellenic Contingent in Cyprus, as well as Frigate "THEMISTOKLIS", which is anchored in the port of Larnaka within the framework of a UN mission in the Southeastern Mediterranean, on the occasion of Christmas. He discussed with the military personnel and exchanged wishes.
In his address to the career personnel and enlisted soldiers of the Hellenic Contingent in Cyprus, the Minister of National Defence stated the following:
"We are here today with the Deputy Chief of Hellenic National Defence General Staff, the Deputy Chief of Cypriot National Guard General Staff, and the Greek Ambassador to wish you Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
We are here because we want to send a message. The Minister of National Defence is called a Minister of "National Defence" and not simply Defence Minister, as is the case for all states, because the Minister of National Defence is responsible for the Nation.
The Nation does not include only those living in Greece. The Nation of Greeks and the Nation of Cypriots are the same Nation. We are one nation in two different countries. That's why you, the Hellenic Contingent in Cyprus, are here, to protect the Nation, the Flag, and the National Emblem.
Officers, NCOs, enlisted soldiers,
all Greeks are proud of you, as are your families, for following in the footsteps of the heroes of the Hellenic Contingent in Cyprus who fell for God and country. That's what Greek soldiers protect. They do not wage offensive wars, they do not claim the lands of others. We protect our countries, our families, our people, our traditions.
All these years, the career personnel made great sacrifices and endured the attack against Greece, against the entire Nation, by the lenders. It is not a coincidence that the lenders demanded that the first cuts be made to the pay of Armed Forces personnel. Because their goal was to lower morale and they thought that the military personnel would break. Thanks to the Armed Forces personnel, the Officers, the NCOs, not only did you not break, on the contrary you dug your toes in; during the crisis, not only was the morale of the Armed Forces not lowered, on the contrary it was raised.
You endured, you maintained our country's strong deterrent force and, at the same time, managed to turn Greece from part of the problem in the broader region to a pillar of stability, together with Cyprus and with the agreements we made to the south with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates and to the north with Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia.
The Armed Forces personnel, during the crisis – and you are well aware that crises often lead to the loss of national territory – managed to create this pillar of stability. It is not a coincidence that the US Secretary of State said two weeks ago that Greece is a "Plan A" country. It is not a coincidence that, as Cyprus started the exploitation of its natural gas and Turkey started threatening and sending warships, Cyprus was supported not only by Greece, i.e. the Hellenic Contingent in Cyprus and the Hellenic Navy, but also by our allies, sending the message to leave Cyprus alone to exploit its natural resources. This will also be the case for Greece.
A few days ago, during the Greece – Cyprus – Israel trilateral meeting, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Anastasiadis, the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Tsipras, and the President of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu, in the presence of the US Ambassador to Israel, announced that a pipeline will be constructed here, which will pass south of Crete, be connected to the natural gas network of Greece, and transport the natural gas of Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt, through Greece, to Europe. What does this mean? It means stability, security. It means that we leave behind a period of economic crisis and continue to a period of great security. Thanks to you.
The Greek people, the entire Nation, are thankful and grateful to the career personnel of the Armed Forces. Because you did this by being true to your oath "To defend the Flag to the end, to never abandon it". You did not bend the knee, neither to creditors, nor to those who supposedly showed us their teeth.
But there would also be no Hellenic Armed Forces without the children of the Greek people, the enlisted soldiers. As Minister of National Defence, I am very proud of you.
Previously, when someone was assigned to Cyprus, friends and family would say with fear "my son will go to Cyprus, it's dangerous". Now, 95% of those serving here are volunteers, you asked to be assigned to Cyprus. This is very important. The Armed Forces depend on career personnel, but also on the people. The people are the enlisted soldiers, all of you who, after completing your military serving and returning home, will be able to tell your children as they are called up for service "I served with the Hellenic Contingent in Cyprus" and bear the relevant badges. You will keep the memories and think that in Cyprus, where you once served, your superiors continue to serve and protect national interests, the Nation's territorial integrity, and of course the country's future.
There are also the National Guardsmen, who in Greece are now part of the Armed Forces family and have been given the ability to be more numerous than in the past, trained, organised, and ready.
Greece is a peaceful country, we do not wish war and do everything possible to have peace, but we also want to send everyone a perfectly clear message: whoever dares challenge our national sovereignty, our territorial integrity, and International Law, will be crushed.
This is no threat to anyone or blustering; it is exercising our national sovereignty, the law. We want to make this clear so that everyone knows our red lines and that the Nation is united. And the Nation is united as long as the Armed Forces are the Armed Forces you shape every day with your lives, your presence, your discipline, your training, your faith in the country.
The Armed Forces unite the Greeks and the Nation. The Armed Forces serve the Flag and the National Emblem. That is our power. United, Hellenism never failed. Only when discord possessed us were they able to hurt as, albeit not for long. Because Greece only rests for a while and then marches on to glory again.
During the past four years of my tenure as Minister, we have done a lot with the political and military leadership in Cyprus. We are here today with the Deputy Chief of Hellenic National Defence General Staff, in the presence of your Commander, the Ambassador, and the Deputy Chief of Cypriot National Guard General Staff to show that Cyprus is not far away.
In recent history, some wanted to sever Cypriot Hellenism from the Nation. They did not want to undertake responsibilities. But the single defence area lies not in war plans and decisions. It lies in the heart of every man and woman of the Hellenic Contingent in Cyprus. In those who fell, in you, and in those who may have to fall in the future.
Greece's and Cyprus' fates are intertwined. I am glad that we managed all these years, beyond the presence of the Hellenic Contingent in Cyprus, to send some simple, yet powerful messages. When Greek F-16s appeared over the parade, we showed that we are here. When we made the deal with Israel and Egypt and had 200 helicopters from Israel here, we showed to some that what they did in the past would not be tolerated anymore. When heroes of 1974, who sacrificed a piece of their body, participated in the national parades in Thessaloniki and Athens, that's what we proved. And of course, the Minister of National Defence, the Chief and the Leadership of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff are here for every parade and will always be here, just as the Cypriots will be in Athens and Thessaloniki.
I am saying these things to you because you serve at the front line of the Nation. And we are all proud of you. Your parents are proud, your family is proud, but also the Greek citizen who trusts the Armed Forces more than anything. It is not a coincidence that 95% of Greek citizens trust the Armed Forces. This is due to the fact that, in the Armed Forces, one can find the unity of the Nation, faith in duty, and professionalism. I am asking you to continue on the same path.
I said these things because it might be my last time in Cyprus as Minister. I was here all these years in every parade on 1 April, but if the national issue of Macedonia comes to Parliament with the Prespes Agreement, I will have to step down from the Ministry of National Defence and the government. Neither history, nor my tenure as Minister of National Defence allow me to agree to the surrender of the name of Macedonia. And I will do it consciously, on behalf of the majority of the Greek people and many of you.
But you will remain in the Armed Forces. As I said, the Armed Forces unite the Nation. I am asking no more of you than to stay united, not engage in politics, and safeguard the unity of the Armed Forces. This is achieved through conscious discipline. Trust your Commander; soldiers, trust your Sergeant; trust your superiors. The main bond in the Armed Forces is conscious discipline and deep faith in the country. I am calling all of you to continue on this path together.
I wholeheartedly wish you happy holidays. Thank you for our excellent cooperation.
I believe that we will soon be together again. But know that a big part of my heart will stay here, in Cyprus. It is an obligation and a duty, both yours and mine. It is the duty of each Greek to think of Cyprus and each Cypriot to think of the motherland".