The Minister of National Defence, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, visited today, this 12th day of June of 2020, the facilities of the US Military Base in Souda Bay – Crete, following an invitation by the US Ambassador in Athens, Mr. Goeffrey R. Pyatt.
The Minister, together with the Chief HNDGS General Konstantinos Floros, have been informed by the Commander of the US Naval Support Activity Souda Bay about its mission; they inspected logistics and naval operations support infrastructure of the Crete Naval Base, while they boarded US Navy CCVs, in order to identify their capabilities.
The visit was concluded at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC), where the Commander made an overall presentation of its objectives, its mission and its operation.
After the end of the visit, the Minister of National Defence Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos made the following statement:
“Allow me to thank Ambassador Goeffrey R. Pyatt for one thing; because for a long time he has been encouraging me to make this visit together here, in Souda Bay, to the area of US Naval Support Activity, but also to the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC), so that I would also have the opportunity to experience first-hand – and it is indeed revealing – this exceptional level of infrastructure, facilities, capabilities of the area, but also the excellent cooperation that springs up between the Greek and American Armed Forces here in Souda. It really gives me sufficient information and points the way to how we should and how we could do even more to develop this deep strategic relationship.
Today we are visiting, together with Ambassador Pyatt and the Chief HNDGS General Konstantinos Floros, Souda – an area of strategic importance for the security and stability in the Mediterranean Sea, but also the wider area.
Our visit here is of course symbolic in nature, because Souda expresses in an explicit and emblematic manner the strategic relationship between Greece and the United States of America; a relationship that is based on strong ties over time between our countries and our people, on a common vision for a peaceful and prosperous region, on common values and our coalition, whenever this was required, for the protection of the precious good of Freedom.
Greece and USA have expressed their concern over the wrongful and provocative acts that cause tension in our region and always underline the importance of abidance by the International Law and good-neighborly relations. Both countries have committed to further strengthen their close cooperation, using all means at their disposal, in order to deal effectively with the provocations and threats and ensure stability and security in the wider region.
Of course, we have made it very clear ourselves and at every opportunity that Greece is always ready to defend and safeguard in full, as it always did, its sovereign rights, resulting from international treaties and the International Law, and to respond effectively to any threat against it.
However, by our visit today, we also stress that our defence cooperation with the United States constitutes a major priority for our countries that contributes significantly to the security of both Nations. We share a desire to strengthen our cooperation and have mutual assistance, in order to ensure that the Armed Forces remain powerful, effective and interoperable.
The conclusion a few months ago of the new Annex to the Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement between Greece and the USA represents an important milestone in the new era of Hellenic-American relations.
Greece, in an environment characterized by instability and volatility, is a stable country, a reliable Ally, an ally with prospect and increasing geostrategic weight.
Therefore, given the recent geopolitical developments in the region, the periodic deployment of US Armed Forces troupes in military installations in our country was and is helpful and desirable.
In this view, the possibility of upgrading current infrastructure and developing a new one, based on the strategic and operational necessity, was considered appropriate for the effective response to challenges and threats, in a way that the national interest is served.
We believe that our strategic relationship with the USA may enhance our deterrent presence in multiple ways: For instance, through the stronger presence of the US Forces and the investments in infrastructure, jointly agreed, at locations that constitute what I have stated on several occasions a community of interest. Or even through more American investments in the development of infrastructure and other Armed Forces installations, apart from the US Naval Support Activity in Souda, which might be jointly used by the Armed Forces of both countries. This is also the case of other regions in Greece, such as Alexandroupoli, Stefanovikeio, Larissa, etc.
Moreover, the coexistence of Greek and US Forces in specialised installations obviously contributes to the training and experience of our country’s Armed Forces.
And finally, through the targeted effort to render our country a Regional Centre for the Provision of Training and Logistics Support for American-built defence equipment to Allies and Partners in the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and our wider region. We seek to strengthen our defence industry in a way that added value for our economy and job vacancies would be achieved; job vacancies for staff specialized in the joint manufacturing and support of defence systems.
Concluding, our strategic cooperation with the United States of America in the Defence sector constitutes a factor that enhances our security and our capability to respond effectively to complex and diverse challenges and threats, even throughout the times we are living, highlighting Greece’s geopolitical and geostrategic value in the wider region of the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
And in this whole complex system here, Souda is a key point of reference and a point from which this hard worked and even more upgraded strategic relationship constitutes – I would say - its best evidence with considerable, even greater, room for improvement.