The very aggressive, very pro-war rhetoric disturbs and worries. In any case, however, the deterrent power of the armed forces of Cyprus and Greece is the guarantee that anyone who plans things, plots territories, develops in practice the revisionism or even the expansionism of the time, will find a strong wall of resistance against him. And the strong barrier is nothing more than our armed forces and their capabilities, said the Minister of National Defense of Greece N. Panagiotopoulos.
In an interview he gave to RIK and the program "Defense for the Fatherland", Mr. Panagiotopoulos referred to the recent US decision to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus, the strategic importance of the port of Alexandroupoli, as well as Greece's response to the Turkish threats, stressing that her choice is not to follow the same sharp, warlike and ultimately offensive rhetoric, which fanaticizes the peoples.
As he explained, Greece moves on two axes, one of which is related to defense 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 the natural and the imperative, if you want, 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 Belara 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, Mr. 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 Defense replied:
"We are maintaining the vigilance we have been in for 2,3 years already, so we are not changing much what we have been doing, the plans that are always 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 e.g. foreign ministers, or at the level of ministers of national defense, 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 the 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 do not expect these verbal extremes, the pro-war aggressive rhetoric to stop, especially from the Turkish president's side".
Mr. Panagiotopoulos described the narrative of demilitarization as outrageous and funny because supposedly Greece or the Greek islands threaten Turkey militarily, noting that after Greece's information initiatives at the international level (NATO, EU, USA and other countries), "everyone 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 the Law of the strong or in the Right of him that hath the power of arms with the party.
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 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 defense doctrine always provided for the coverage of the defense needs of Cyprus. We haven't changed that. Greece certainly has its defense capabilities, or if you want, its weapon systems for the defense of Cyprus as well and I would say that is a given. It's none of my business or 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, stressing that with the National Guard and the Ministry of Defense of Cyprus, the Cypriots they can feel safe.