ATHENS – Unsure which way US President Donald Trump will tilt as Greece faces Turkish provocations, Greece and the US are stepping up co-operation in the fight against terrorism after a visit to Washington by Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis.
There will be more exchanges of data, information and equipment, said Kathimerini, the agreement coming as another terror group in Greece, which has many, said it was behind planting a bomb outside a police station.
“Greek-US relations are at the very best level they’ve been in several years, and this was confirmed during the visit,” a ministry source told the paper about Chrysochoidis’ trip and his meetings with officials from the US Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the State Department.
Greek counterterrorism officers will get training from American counterparts and there will be faster identification of potential suspects at airports and during the processing of incoming migrants and refugees with the effort focused on external terror worries.
“Greece welcomes 35 million tourists a year, is in one of the ‘hottest’ spots on the planet and is under tremendous pressure from migrant-refugee inflows. This requires much faster processes of identification and cross-referencing for potential terrorism suspects,” the ministry source said, without being identified.
Greece and the US have stepped up military cooperation but Trump has referred to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a good friend at the same time Turkey has claimed Greek waters for energy drilling, raising fears of a conflict that could put the US in a dilemma who to support if shooting starts.
Because of previous deals, Greece’s counterterrorism unit already has access to a database of 200,000 persons of interest in the fight against global terrorism and airports are equipped with devices allowing authorities to cross-reference travelers’ information with American terrorism databases.
The ministry source added that the Hellenic Police (ELAS) will be supplying “front-line officers” like members of the DIAS rapid response squad with special devices that allow them to run quick identity checks on potential suspects.
The US wants Greece to replace old citizens’ identity cards with more modern versions or else face the possible risk of Greeks again requiring visas to travel to America. The 500-million-euro ($557.86 million) ID program is expected to go out for bid soon.