The Minister of National Defence Panos Kammenos met at the Pentagon with the US Secretary of Defence James Mattis, within the framework of his official visit to the United States.
After the meeting, the Minister of National Defence made the following statement:
"This is the second time in my three years in office that I had the opportunity to officially meet the US Secretary of Defence, General James Mattis, with whom we have had an excellent cooperation within the framework of NATO and the international organisations of which we are members.
During these three years, Greece has built a very close cooperation with the United States in the defence sector, having proceeded with programmes such as the upgrade of the F-16 and P-3 Orion aircraft. Furthermore, we have received critical equipment from the US as EDA grant, such as the Chinook and Kiowa helicopters, as well as other assets which can not be announced at this time.
The United States of America, with the trusting relationship they have built with the Hellenic Armed Forces, the Hellenic Government, and the Greek people, have essentially assigned to Greece the role of the centre of the stability axis to the south with Cyprus and Israel, as well as countries of the Middle East, such as Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Lebanon, etc., as well as to the north with Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia – a non NATO member state – and FYROM.
I believe that, within the framework of this policy, the next step will be the signing of common interstate defence agreements, which will help resolve problems, as well as essentially build a new energy policy in the broader area.
I am very satisfied with the support of the United States during these difficult times, after the economic crisis period, to our country and the Hellenic Armed Forces.
Q: Is there something more specific concerning the time schedule?
P. KAMMENOS: There have been great improvements to the time schedules we set in the past.
Q: Was something in particular asked from the Americans?
P. KAMMENOS: We discussed many matters which can not be announced. In general, what I can tell you is that our plans proceed fast, while we also plan new cooperations.
Q: Mr. Mattis referred to the Skopje issue at the beginning of your meeting, did he say anything else on that?
P. KAMMENOS: You are well aware of my position and I believe it is absolutely clear. But I also think that the developments also lead to the same direction. I believe that the next phase will be the conclusion of interstate agreements, which will resolve the instability issue. Beyond that, everything else will be resolved with the consent of the peoples.
Q: Mr. Minister, answering to a question by ANT1, Mr. Mattis, your counterpart, mentioned for the first time the possibility of a new military base in Greece and sent the ball to the Hellenic Government's court. What is your comment on that?
P. KAMMENOS: There are structures which would be very interesting for Greece to come close to us. Let's not forget that we have entered a period of new threats, we have cyber warfare, satellite communications, so many new assets developed by the US which could very much help our defence policy by being in Greece.
Q: There is a rekindling of threats by President Erdoğan, who threatened to send the drilling ship "Fatih" (Conqueror) to the Mediterranean at the end of the month. I would like your comment on that.
P. KAMMENOS: Greece had managed to earn its geopolitical position because it respects international agreements and international law. I believe that it was an important message to Turkey that, while they held two Greek servicemen for almost six months without charges, when we arrested two Turks at our border, we released them immediately. Because there are indeed incidents at the border and they must be resolved otherwise.
The policy of challenges, threats, and bullying, I would dare say, never leads to anything good. I think that it is also in Turkey's interest to realise that it must live peacefully with Greece. Beyond that, it is well aware that challenges against Hellenic sovereignty will be immediately met with the harshest response there is.
Q: Did you discuss the Cypriot EEZ matter with Mr. Mattis?
P. KAMMENOS: I told you that we proceed to a cooperation for the expansion of the Greece – Cyprus – Israel tripartite agreement to include the United States. I think this is clear.
Earlier, the Minister of National Defence Panos Kammenos met at the State Department with the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Wess Mitchell, with whom he discussed the reinforcement of the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
He also met with the US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.