Armed Forces Activities

17/02/2018 13:53:05

Interview of the Alternate Minister of National Defence Dimitris Vitsas on Realnews newspaper

    The Alternate Minister of National Defence, Dimitris Vitsas, was interviewed by the journalist Vasilis Skouris on Realnews newspaper on 17/02/2018 where, amongst others, he stated the following:

    QUESTION:    Minister, is there a Turkish threat following the recent incident at Imia, but also the threats of Mr. Erdogan? Do you believe that the Turkish President is finally ready, on the basis of his plans, to “pull the trigger” in the Aegean Sea?

    ANSWER:    It is about a significant incident in the context of Turkish provocativeness. There is no need to overplay nor downplay the facts. The Turkish government and the Turkish political system escalate their provocativeness, through statements, violations and breaches of the International Law. To a large extent, this reflects both the domestic situation, with the open fronts existing in Turkey, the electoral partnership between the Turkish president and nationalists, and the external issues involving the conflicts in Afrin and of course, the adoption of a doctrine indicating that Turkey is powerful and able to open many fronts together. What we believe in the first place is that this is being done more for domestic consumption. On our part, we should not take the bait of Turkish provocativeness, but we should be present, answering calmly and indicating our limits. The political leadership of the country monitors and checks the developments and interferes in any way deemed necessary. On the other side, the Armed Forces are always present and in place, possessing knowledge, sobriety and determination.

    QUESTION:    You keep talking about raising the geostrategic status of the Country. In the likelihood of any threats on the part of Turkey carried out, do you expect assistance by the United States or the EU?

    ANSWER:    A country should on one hand safeguard its sovereignty rights and on the other hand, operate on the basis of International Law. That’s what we do. Greece wants to, but may not rely solely on the assistance provided or not by others. Of course, we take the international alliances into consideration and by means of geopolitical moves, we jointly formulate them for the benefit of national interests. What we expect from the USA, the NATO and the EU, based on the information that we provide them and reflecting the truth, is to take a stand in connection with Turkish provocativeness, making it clear that they will actively oppose to any move in view of enlargement of the destabilization area. The stabilization of the area is something that affects them.

    QUESTION:    In your opinion, what should the EU do with regard to this matter?

    ANSWER:    The important thing is that the Greek borders are also European borders and that the incident involved the engagement of a Turkish boat with a European boat. This fact directly generates specific answers of involvement of the European bodies that should assess this provocative action accordingly. The EU should operate as a large complex of determent. It is a matter of self-protection both of the EU itself and the European institutions.

    QUESTION:    Minister, are Imia finally “Turkish”, as the Erdogan government insists and suggests?

    ANSWER:    No “grey zones” in the area of the Aegean sea do and may exist for us but also for the international community. Specifically for the territorial status of the Dodecanese, there is a series of international conventions as of 1912 that they were ceded in full sovereignty to Italy by Turkey and then, by virtue of article 15 of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the agreement between Turkey and Italy of 1932 determining the maritime borders and finally, the Treaty of Paris under which the Dodecanese was ceded in full sovereignty to Greece by Italy in 1947. The foregoing is clear and Imia belong to Greece.

    QUESTION:    However, Ankara sustains that it claims 18 Greek islands. Erdogan’s opposition declares that if it takes over the government, it “will come and get them”. What do you have to answer?

    ANSWER:    This provocative rhetoric forms part of the planning I have already mentioned linked to the context in which Turkey exists. However, this does not leave us cold, because we know very well that a provocative action, even if it is performed for the domestic consumption of the other side, never ceases to generate results and risks. I would advise them to avoid vulgar shouting and bullying that has no practical value in return. In any case, we warn whoever threatens our territorial integrity to assess the situation very well and to take all aspects into consideration. We want peace and we work for it. We are not frightened of warmonger cries. We would like to believe that the leadership of the neighboring country has sense enough to decide upon the interest of the country and its people.

    QUESTION:    Is Greece going to support Cyprus by any means necessary against the Turkish provocation?

    ANSWER:    Greece supports the Republic of Cyprus as an independent country with full sovereignty rights, a member of international organizations, such as the UN, the EU, etc. At the same time, we contribute towards solving the question of Cyprus, on the basis of the implementation of the rules of International Law and European acquis. As a country, we participate in the international framework of protection of the Republic of Cyprus and in any case, any threat against Cyprus can be used as a threat against Greece too and for this reason, we adopt a similar stance, in cooperation with the democratically elected Cypriot government.

    QUESTION:    Minister, are the Hellenic Armed Forces ready, if necessary, to defend the Country? What message is sent to Ankara?

    ANSWER:    In any case, we hope we never do; however, the answer is one: Yes. Whoever is responsible for the management of this situation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Coast Guard, and of course from the Ministry of National Defence and the Armed Forces, is in position and performs his duties with knowledge, determination and vigor. Let us all bear in mind that “accidents” are the most hardly manageable issues, because they may exceed the limits. We are not in need of sending messages; they all know that we “here, obedient to our laws we lie”.

    QUESTION:    Will the modernization of F-16 take place? What do we have to expect? And will you not be afraid to affix your signature in the current climate of scandals prevailing in the country?

    ANSWER:    By the end of February, we will meet with the Committee on the part of USA to discuss the details for the modernization of F-16. No-one should be afraid of affixing his signature, due to the current climate in general, provided the procedures are scrupulously observed. We do what we do, committed to the objective, with transparency and with a clear conscience and at the same time, we have proved three years now that we have a history too; that money used for armaments, representing about a third of former respective costs, is allocated effectively and targeted at actual needs.

    QUESTION:   Minister, are we finally buying frigates from France?

    ANSWER:    We aim at reinforcing the Army and the Navy and the Air Force. We are not waiting for opportunities to open up, but we are the ones who create opportunities. There is an open discussion at table about reinforcing the Navy and some efficient and cost-effective options have been thrown out. One thing is for sure: that the country’s defensive armor is and will be strong and forward-looking.

    QUESTION:    Do we need to increase the funding for armaments?
    ANSWER:    For the time being, we move along the budgetary framework; we do not ask for more money from the national budget. We respect the endeavour on the part of Greek people and take everything into consideration. We have already prepared and we will present the 3-year armaments programme to the parliament and we have already worked towards bringing the changes to the law on procurement to the parliament. We do not intend to get into an arms race nor be disarmed voluntarily.

    QUESTION:    We know that the plan for the reorganization of the Armed Forces is being completed. What does it include? What are its main lines?

    ANSWER:    We aim at reinforcing the staffing of formations and units, especially on the borders, increasing the operational capabilities, simplifying the administrative structures and eventually, maintaining and reinforcing the country’s protection, so that the Armed Forces would carry out their work assigned by the Greek people, the Constitution and the State. The reorganization plan is progressing and on many issues, we have already begun to fulfill many of its targets and it is certain that it will be completed successfully and will bring directly positive results both in terms of power and the maximum employment of resources.

    QUESTION:    Are any “retaliatory measures” planned for cities with newly-recruited training centers? If yes, please indicate.

    ANSWER:    It is well known that as of the Training Series of March, the form of basic training changes and in this context, former newly-recruited training centers are being abolished. There will be retaliatory measures, where possible, on the part of the MoD and the Armed Forces; for instance, a War Museum and a Conference Center in Messolonghi, reinforcement of the air base in Kalamata, etc. At the same time, the main point is what the government is able to do in whole and how it can help by means of development programmes involving local societies. By the removal of some camps, new opportunities for performance – concession of sites to the local society are being offered, so that programmes would be opened up by the local administration towards the development of the area. It constitutes a breakthrough, a challenge for all and we should not focus on certain reactions that are expected from the point of view of local or metropolitan interest, but it may not and should not affect the strategic planning.

    QUESTION:    Why, as a party, you do not say “yes” to the proposal of New Democracy party for a fact finding committee about P. Kammenos, when New Democracy party votes for your proposal for an investigation procedure about Novartis? Do you have anything to hide?

    ANSWER:    I have read the case file submitted to the parliament. No accusation is contained by the witnesses and the public prosecutor; the latter just referred to Panos Kammenos and for this reason, the case file was sent to the parliament. This issue has been discussed quite thoroughly; of course, press groups have intervened with particular concern and interest. It would be phenomenal from a legal and political point of view to do something about an agreement, which has never been executed. Indeed, it is reflected in the said case file by all those persons that have testified, that there is no intermediary. Therefore, what would the subject of the fact finding committee be? At last, if anyone has something to say, just say it.

    QUESTION:    Minister, does the Novartis case, along with any solution to the Skopje question, bring you closer to the elections?

    ANSWER:    The Novartis case is a proved international scandal that has to be investigated and criminal and political accountabilities should be attributed. Whoever takes the opposite view, he should say so outright. This case has to do also with the struggle, the effort to build a transparent and stable political system that would earn the trust of the society itself against the old political system. Nothing and no-one should remain in the shadow. We should all care about this and mostly, those whose name is referred to. We can see the contradiction; the opposition parties claiming “out in the open” and then, they add a “but…”, annulling what they say… They begin with a defensive stance, which neither the country nor the opposition needs. As for the link of the case to the Skopje issue that some want to make: it is absolutely science fiction! Is it possible that someone is convinced by the argument: “the Imia incident took place to conceal the Novartis scandal, which emerged to conceal the rally against the Macedonia naming that came to overshadow the exit from the memorandum and therefore, to lead us to the elections”? At this point, politics gives up and psychiatry takes charge.

    QUESTION:    In view of the municipal elections, what approach should SYRIZA follow in your opinion?

    ANSWER:    The Ministry of Interior has stipulated that soon the new law on municipal elections will be announced. SYRIZA firmly supports the institution of Local Administration at all levels. It constitutes a democratic achievement that provides the opportunity to regional and local administration to play their role in the development efforts of the country. Our objective should be to strengthen these municipal forces that are viewing the institution of local administration with a forward-looking approach. We are not strictly speaking from a political party point of view and we are not supporting closely political forces. I believe that the parties that we are going to support in the municipal and regional elections, should also participate in the 2nd round of elections, not for the purpose of relying (the Government) on the local authorities, but for the purpose of promoting the wider development effort that the country needs. 



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