U.S. “Understands Greece’s Concerns” Regarding Turkey, Greek Defence Minister Says

File- Greece's Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, left, shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, prior to their meeting in Athens, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (Costas Baltas/Pool via AP)

ATHENS – Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos on Wednesday expressed his satisfaction with the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the White House, in a televised interview with state broadcaster ERT.

“There is a sense that the meeting went as well as it could go, given the difficult timing, since the president’s focus was on events in Iraq. We got the support of the president of the United States of America, his good opinion that something is going very well in Greece,” Panagiotopoulos said, noting that the American president was well versed in the economy and the economic climate and had abundant praise for the Greek economy.

“The now strategic relationship between the US and Greece was confirmed, a relationship that we must now strive to extend and deepen through investments, cooperation in the defence sector, etc,” he added.

Concerning the Ankara-Libya agreement, Panagiotopoulos said that he had the impression that President Trump and members of his team will “act to provide good services” in order to defuse tension between Greece and Turkey, with all that this entails.

“I consider that they understand Greece’s concerns, they understand Greece’s determination to respond forcefully, with whatever is necessary, if its fundamental sovereign rights are disputed even more by Turkey. I think that this was made clear, abundantly clear by us to American officials. I think that they can move through different channels to communicate with the Turkish side, in order to explain that an escalation of tension benefits no one.”

The minister also commented on the upgrade of Greece’s F-16 fighter planes and the prospect of purchasing the new generation F-35 fighters: “The improvement of the Hellenic Aerospace Industry will be the vehicle that will allow not only the upgrade of the F-16s but also the future support of the 5th-generation aircraft that Greece will sooner or later purchase, this is inevitable,” he said.

He noted that Greece has started a discussion on the prospect of buying F-35s now, provided that its fiscal state permitted, adding that the good prospects of the Greek economy allowed this to be “stated with some confidence.”

Trump appeared to understand that this was not just another economic deal but a factor that was a part of the more general strategic relationship between the two countries,” the minister added.

He noted that all issues concerning the reinforcement of the Hellenic Armed Forces with US arms – either through the sale of US military equipment or by the donation of surplus equipment no longer used by the US armed forces – were discussed with the US government officials, including the leadership of the US defence department.

“We agreed that we will be able to discuss details of the various proposals, which are prepared by the Greek side but also known to the US side, in the future,” he added.