Panagiotopoulos from Cyprus: Turkey's demilitarisation narrative is funny; I choose the path of great deterrent power

Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos

Greek Minister of Defence Nikos Panagiotopoulos said that "the very aggressive, very pro-war rhetoric disturbs and worries" but that "the deterrent power of the armed forces of Cyprus and Greece is the guarantee against anyone who plans things, plots territories, develops in practice the revisionism or even expansionism."

"They will find a strong barrier against them. And the strong barrier is nothing more than our armed forces and their capabilities," he added.

In an interview he gave to RIK and the program "Defence for the Fatherland", Panagiotopoulos referred to the recent decision of the US to lift the arms embargo to Cyprus, the strategic importance of the port of Alexandroupolis, as well as Greece's response to the Turkish threats, stressing that their choice is not to follow the same sharp, warlike and ultimately insulting rhetoric, which fanaticises the peoples.

As he explained, Greece moves on two axes, one of which is related to defence diplomacy and the conclusion and development of alliances and strategic partnerships with countries that share with Greece the same perceptions of peace and stability in our region.

The second axis is related to the acquisition of new weapon systems and the covering of gaps that appeared or grew due to the economic hardship of recent years.

"As I have told my Turkish counterpart, I do not consider it an aggressive or potentially threatening attitude of Greece towards Turkey that it is slowly deciding to replace frigates, warships, which are forty or fifty years old. It is natural and imperative, if you will, under the circumstances, that we go to a gradual replacement of these ships which have suffered great damage from time, as it is normal.''

The acquisition of the three Belhara frigates by France, he stressed, is not a potential threat or an aggressive attitude of Greece towards Turkey, the aim is to replace its old fleet.

Referring to the strategic importance of the port of Alexandroupolis, Panagiotopoulos said that for the first time the Straits are being bypassed, something that bothers Turkey, while the investment also brings significant economic benefits to the region.

Asked if he thinks that Turkey's challenges and threats will intensify in the next period, the Minister of National Defence replied:

"We are maintaining the vigilance we have been in for 2-3 years now, so we are not changing much of what we have been doing, the plans that have always been there and of course we are moving as fast as possible in our effort to upgrade our armed forces. Possibly we have a tension at the level of rhetoric.

"I want to believe, I want to hope because I am naturally an optimistic type that communication channels will be found or restored between the leaderships, whether at the level of leaders, or at the level of, for example, foreign ministers, or at defence minister level, even military leadership.

"I think it is essential that these channels of communication be restored and I believe that eventually these channels of communication will be restored.

"Our Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has issued an invitation to continue dialogue on the many differences that we undoubtedly have and from then on I think that this invitation will receive some response.

"On the other hand - to be realistic - I don't expect these verbal extremes, the pro-war aggressive rhetoric to stop, especially from the Turkish president's side."

Panagiotopoulos described the narrative of demilitarisation as outrageous and funny because supposedly Greece or the Greek islands threaten Turkey militarily, noting that after Greece's information initiatives at international level (NATO, EU, USA and other countries), all the powerful players, internationally, are putting pressure on the Turkish president to change his ways, to change his attitudes and to do what we consider normal and next in international relations: to adopt an international order based on specific rules and not on his Law of the Strong.

"However, for better or worse, we are also getting ready to upgrade the country's equipment capabilities. It is good to have International Law on your side, but it is even better to have modern weapon systems and great deterrent power through your armed forces. And I choose this path," he said.

He stated that the lifting of the arms embargo from the USA to Cyprus, besides being of key importance, could pave the way, not only for the purchase of weapons systems, but for the creation of infrastructure, such as a naval base.

"The defence doctrine has always provided for the coverage of Cyprus' defence needs. We haven't changed that. Greece certainly has its defence capabilities, or if you want, its weapon systems for the defence of Cyprus as well and I would say that is a given," he said.

"It's none of my business, it's always been the doctrine. Greece is next to Cyprus, Cyprus is next to Greece, we are brothers and together we fight to stand in a new, very complex geopolitical era'', he concluded, emphasising that Cypriots can feel safe.

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