Greece is facing two major external challenges- the coronavirus pandemic and Turkish provocativeness, government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said on Monday.
He noted that a stabilisation in the number of daily cases is being observed. “It appears that, on one hand, the citizens are observing the measures proposed by the experts and, on the other hand, that the protection measures are effective, as the cases have not skyrocketed, which many expected during this period.”
However, he noted that the following period remains crucial for two reasons: “The first is the opening of our schools …and the second is complacency.” He stressed that people must not allow the good results to lull them into a renewed laxity in observing the measures, which would then coincide with the seasonal cold and influenza virus epidemics. “The health system will then be hard pressed and the danger will increase for our loved ones, especially the most vulnerable,” he added.
Referring to Turkey’s provocative actions, “It is a national duty to be united and not have divisive arguments. Courage and not pettiness, responsibility and not populism, truth not lies,” Petsas said. He added that Turkey is directing threats of war at Greece almost every day, and that Athens is responding with political, diplomatic and operational readiness and “is “determined to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereign rights.”
The country also plans to acquire arms, boost its armed forces and revamp its defence industry, Petsas added. “We are in talks with allies to boost our armed forces,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will outline his plans during an annual economic policy speech on Saturday.
He repeated that Greece’s message is clear and as Mitsotakis has said many times, the provocations must stop before talks can begin. “Once the threats stop, the exploratory talks will begin in order to find a solution to the only pending issue [between Greece and Turkey], which is the delimitation of our maritime zones or a joint agreement to refer the issue to The Hague.”
It is recalled last week a government official told Reuters, Greece is in talks with France and other countries over arms purchases to boost its armed forces.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will travel to French Mediterranean island of Corsica on Thursday at the invitation of French President Emanuel Macron.
According to government sources, they will discuss the broader framework of Greek-French cooperation. It is considered very likely that the agreement on the sale of French weapons (Rafale aircraft and more) will be finalized in the conversation between the two leaders.