The Minister of National Defence Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos visited yesterday the guard posts at the islands of Ro and Stronghili, as well as the military camp “Sergeant Savas Nikolaos” at the island of Meyisti, and its town hall.
During his visit, he was accompanied by the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff General Michail Kostarakos, the Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff Lieutenant General Konstantinos Ziazias and the Commander of the Higher Military Command of Interior and Islands, Lieutenant General Georgios Sofianidis.
During his speech to the personnel of the Meyisti island Defence Command, Mr. Avramopoulos underlined, among others:
“Currently, our country is suffering, it goes through hard times. We shall never allow, under any circumstances, this crisis to affect our society and, above all, our country, our national integrity, our independence…
Almost a month before assuming my duties as Minister of National Defence, I had visited here again. I had made a statement back then. I had said that we Greeks, we will not allow this financial crisis become a national one…
Here in Kastelorizo, our vital national issues, as they are correlated and associated with the island, as well as our country’s internationally entrenched financial interests, are impawned.
During these hours, when our country experiences a difficult crisis, being at a transitional period, there is - and I never miss a chance to repeat it - another Greece; Greece of commitment, of duty, of honour.
This is the Greece you serve and, after the years will have passed, you will be able to say and narrate that, at the difficult times our country experienced, you had a part of this great collective responsibility and effort, to keep this country standing and proud.
It is this other Greece that we honour today with our presence here; Greece which is expressed and represented by you, serving your military service, but also by our officers, who have dedicated their entire life to the service of this higher and supreme benefit, which is Democracy, our national dignity, our national integrity and independence.
I would like to convey to you on behalf of the Hellenic state, first of all its gratitude for your existence and presence here; to once more assure the island and its inhabitants that Greece, our country, is here with its Armed Forces along with the whole political world of this country, united. Since the island of Kastelorizo, for us, is more than just an island. It is a symbol inspiring us, guiding us, leading us.
We are not here to send out threatening messages to anyone. On the contrary, it is a chance to transmit a message to the other side, which I am sure that is now watching our visit here. To tell them that this country is peaceful and democratic. A country that respects its neighbours and demands the same respect from them.
Mutual respect opens the way to understanding and cooperation. This is what we ask for, since this is what we send out as a message.
However, on the other hand, we are standing, we are steady, we are ready to defend, if needed, this land that was delivered to us by our ancestors. And Kastelorizo is at the frontline of this national stand”.
During his welcoming address to the Minister of National Defence at the town hall of Meyisti, the Mayor Mr. Pavlos Paniyiris mentioned:
“I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart, mister Minister, for the love you have diachronically shown to Kastelorizo, this borderline which you had adopted, ever since you were Mayor of Athens. Your signs on this island are still obvious as far as the cars are concerned, for you were responsible for the construction of a parking. Besides your love, you had also contributed materially.
You should know that our love for you is great, since what you did back then and what you still currently do, demand nothing in return. I mean that you have never been candidate in the district of the Dodecanese, so as to come so often, on private means, as Minister or as Mayor of Athens.
I would like to thank you on account of your initiative and directive you gave to the boys, the pilots who used to come here and, all of a sudden, the airplanes overflying our island, giving us courage, were cut.
The flights restarted, mister Minister, thanks to you, thanks to your order. You know that this means so many for us. When we get a phone call from Souda Bay – or any other place these planes take off from – and they say that they shall pass in 20 minutes, in half an hour, the people are waiting for them. They come out of their houses, their stores, and they wait for the airplanes to overfly.
A complaint I would like to make, mister Minister, is that apart from you, we have not seen any other politician visiting Kastelorizo, particularly during such hard times".
Mr. Avramopoulos, delivering the shield of the Ministry of National Defence to the Mayor of Meyisti, underlined:
“Today, when Kastelorizo comes back at the frontline of national interest, it was very correct of you to refer to the presence of the Hellenic Army here; to the overflights of our combat aircraft, which strengthen the inhabitants’ morale and remind that Kastelorizo is Greece itself.
Dear Mayor, have no doubt that this shall continue in the future. The inhabitants should feel safe and secure, just as all Greek citizens should feel safe and secure.
Kastelorizo will always be safe in the embrace of Greece and in the hearts of Greeks. It is the region where, as I said earlier, resistance, strength, the Hellenic state’s ability to guard its borders and protect its citizens and their property, and to ensure peace and security, are being proved and rated day by day.
However, I repeat once more that my presence here does not aim at sending out any threatening message towards anybody. It is a message of certitude and security, as well as a message of friendship and peace with our neighbours.
Yet, it must be based on mutual respect and the respect of international law and internationally accepted principles. These developments have also given Kastelorizo another essential and symbolic dimension. It concerns the country’s internationally entrenched financial interests.
Have no doubt, dear Mayor, and all you who presently receive this message from me, that under no circumstances will we allow this generalized and constantly pressuring financial crisis become a national one.
The country’s Armed Forces have both the power and potency, the infrastructure and the morale, to fulfill their duty, in case it shall be necessary.
The State has made sure, through all these years, with the sacrifices made by the Hellenic people, to furnish the Armed Forces with one of the best infrastructures. The Hellenic Army, and the country’s Armed Forces in general, is well organized.
It is ready, and what we – as this county’s Government – currently ensure is its effectiveness, its spirit and morale, above all. Spirit and morale, dear Mayor, concern the personnel itself, as well as our soldiers. And, I could not hide that I was touched, when I visited the islands of Stronghili and Ro, as well as the battalion here, talked to them and saw their looks. Because, that is the moment when one understands the message sent by the Greek soldier.
Consequently, we should be very proud for the entire Armed Forces. And this island, all the more, thanks to the love of you all who, in the spirit of understanding and solidarity, must continue keeping it standing, while us all, in our turn, will help it through its difficulties but also good times”.