as you can see, we are here today, the political and military leadership, the Chief HAGS and all the Chiefs, on a day that makes us very happy, because we managed to add yet another force multiplier to the Hellenic Armed Forces.
Today is the induction of 70 KIOWA light attack helicopters and the last of the 10 CHINOOK helicopters, whose delivery started two years ago.
The induction of the KIOWA helicopters provides an additional capability to the Armed Forces. It is worth mentioning that these are smaller helicopters with fewer capabilities, but can undertake the same missions as the APACHE. Hence, we can extend the flight hours of the fewer and much more expensive APACHE across a longer time period.
At this point, I would like to congratulate all those involved in the programme for its successful implementation, which means that there was excellent cooperation among the authorities of the Ministry of National Defence, the Hellenic Army, the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, the US Embassy; this was initiated by the former Minister of National Defence and the former Chief of Hellenic Army General Staff, it was completed, and the results can be seen today.
On this occasion, I'd like to say that there should be no concern about everything going on around us. We are well prepared, with a very good and planned series of actions to try and prevent the actions taking place in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus and, at the same time, we maintain the operational capability of the Armed Forces at the best level possible. As you can see, capabilities are constantly added, but the Greek people must be calm and not worry about anything.
Thank you very much for being here".
Q: Is the acquisition of these helicopters a response to Turkish provocativeness, Mr. Minister?
E. APOSTOLAKIS: I think any enhancement of our Armed Forces' capabilities is a response to Turkish provocativeness.
Q: Mr. Minister, will Greece increase its presence in the Cypriot EEZ?
E. APOSTOLAKIS: Look, the actions undertaken to deal with the problem are parallel to those undertaken by the Republic of Cyprus. At this point, we are trying to deter this provocative action by Turkey with various actions and measures. At each stage, the situation is examined, analysed, and further actions are decided.
Q: Mr. Minister, since we are in Volos, do you have any news on "GEORGOULA" Camp, the Brigade? Will it be relocated? Is the temporary decision still valid? Will it be lifted? What are the developments?
E. APOSTOLAKIS: Look, from an operational point of view, the 32nd Brigade should not be in Volos. This causes a lot of problems, I can't provide details to the Press, but I have explained these to the local MPs, the Head of the Region, and the Mayor. Currently, until we are ready for the relocation of the 32nd Brigade, it stays here. But we will find a solution so that the city does not remain without military presence and does not lose financial resources. However, I'd like you to understand that the operational planning of the Armed Forces should not be unilateral, as is the case right now, with the local community demanding that it stays for their own reasons, which however are not in line with operational plans.
Q: Do you have an estimate about the time of the relocation?
E. APOSTOLAKIS: No, but you should know that preparations are made for its reception in two camps in Attica. When these are completed, we will proceed.
Q: Mr. Minister, how is progress with the Confidence-Building Measures? Is the Greek delegation in Turkey? Do you expect something tangible or is this part of keeping channels open?
E. APOSTOLAKIS: Look, there is an effort, as you know, which, after long talks and actions, pays off and it is an effort to record the elements that come into play from both sides to create tension in the Aegean. So, when these are recorded and the views of both sides are considered, we will see what we can change or improve to achieve something. Our main effort right now is to implement the agreed Confidence-Building Measures, this Papoulias – Yilmaz package, which, if implemented, will greatly decrease tension. But I think that keeping communication channels open is very important to be able to keep all these violations in our territory at a safe level.
Thank you very much.