ATHENS – “It is our capabilities that deter the other side from daring a military engagement, because they know the heavy cost that they will be forced to pay. Our armed forces are at all times vigilant, fully ready and decisive,” Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said on Friday in an interview with the newspaper “To Manifesto”.
Asked about a statement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan concerning the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the minister said that Erdogan “always provokes tension whenever he feels threatened or faces problems at home.” This simply served to strengthen arguments presented by Greece, however, and to expose Erdogan to the international community, he added.
“We are not the ones that will cut off channels of communication but dialogue is not consistent with aggressive rhetoric and provocative behaviour…the Turkish president needs to understand that Greece is a pillar of stability for the surrounding region but will not cut corners in the defence of its sovereign rights,” Panagiotopoulos said.
“The Turkish president is mistaken if he thinks the Greek prime minister will fail to defend the country’s sovereign rights or to tackle threats to its territorial integrity,” he noted, saying that Greeks should have absolute faith in the country’s armed forces.
He also highlighted the importance of Greece’s presence in the European Union and of the EU’s support:
“If there was ever a time when Greece should feel safe and secure, it is this one. Greece should not worry, European countries were and are protected. My view is that no problem can arise with the security of Greece or any other European country,” he said.
Panagiotopoulos went on to express doubts whether a programme to refit Turkish F-16 fighter jets will finally be approved by the United States, noting US refusal to sell F-35s, and said everything would hinge on Turkey’s overall behaviour.
Regarding the arms supplies sent to Ukraine, he emphasised that this will in no way weaken Greece’s defences, which were the priority at all times.
Finally, he affirmed Greece’s full support for all NATO expansion, such as the inclusion of Sweden and Finland.