Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos responded to the demands made by Turkish officials for Greece’s islands to be demilitarized whilst speaking at the Delphi Economic Forum.
Responding to the criticism of his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar for the visit of the Greek Prime Minister, President and himself to Greek islands, Panagiotopoulos said:
“No Turkish official can nominate a Greek official to travel within Greece, we do not accept such suggestions,” adding: “everything that is threatened is not demilitarised.”
According to him, there is an “existing threat and the basis of our sovereign right is that we must take measures to defend parts of Greek territory.”
He also referred to the upgrading of the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces and in particular of the Navy fleet, saying that a great effort is being made in this direction in the last two years.
“We have a plan, a priority and an economic capability and we have to do it because the weapons systems are getting older as time goes on,” he said, referring to the frigates to be supplied by the Navy.
The oldest frigates we have are 50 years old and the least old are 40 years old.
“Even if there was no tension with Turkey, we would proceed with the upgrade of the Greek fleet,” the defence minister said.
He spoke of “interesting proposals” that “the Navy is working on and must choose the best and most attractive based on its needs.”
The final decision, according to Panagiotopoulos, will be taken in the near future, while the request of the ministry is the involvement of the domestic defense industry with the participation of Greek companies and the construction of ships in Greek shipyards.
The period of the shipbuilding, as Panagiotopoulos said, “will take several years.”
Regarding the de-escalation mechanism created by NATO for Greek-Turkish relations, the Minister of National Defense stressed that “the Alliance does not want to see tensions between the allies.”
“Turkey’s behavior is a destabilising factor, not only for peace and stability in the Southeastern Mediterranean, but also for the very cohesion of NATO,” he added.