ATHENS – Relations with the United States are at their best, New Democracy spokesman Stelios Petsas said before Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met US President Donald Trump in Washington, after the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA had said the same.
Speaking to Greek state broadcaster ERT, Petsas said Greece wanted the United States, after the two countries last year renewed a military cooperation agreement had held a US-Greece Strategic Dialogue, wanted stronger US backing against Turkish provocations.
Turkey, already drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters, signed a deal with Libya dividing the seas between them, with Turkey claiming waters near major Greek islands such as Rhodes and planning to put energy research ships off Crete, where the US Navy has a base in Souda Bay.
Petsas said that the United States has stopped trying to maintain an equal distance between Greece and Turkey, and is “dealing with Turkish provocations with determination,” although Trump said he considers Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a friend.
Turkey though has been rebuffed in its attempt to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets after buying a Russian S-400 missile defense system that could compromise the defenses of NATO, to which Greece, the US and Turkey belong.
Petsas, reiterating what Mitsotakis had said, condemned the Turkey-Libya deal and said Greece was trying to build an international alliance to “diplomatically isolate” Turkey although Erdogan has shown disdain for attempts to do that, ignoring calls from Cyprus, Greece and the US to stop drilling off Cyprus and continuing to have Turkish fighter jets and warships violate Greek airspace and waters.
While Greece wants to upgrade its American F-16 fighter jets and French Mirage fighters, Petsas said there’s also interest in getting F-35s after critics said Turkey could have used them against Greece in a conflict.
Petsas said taking part in the F-35 program could be done “on the condition that it is on terms that we can meet financially,” the country making a slow recovery from a near-decade long economic and austerity crisis.
Greece, Petsas stressed, has no intention of “engaging in an arms race” with Turkey and will always keep the lines of communication between the two countries open, so that there can be, “if Turkey so desires, a stable relationship between us.”
“On the other hand, we cannot leave Greece without the forces it needs so that it is always able to do what it must to defend its sovereign rights,” he also added.