Greece will defend its interests in the Aegean Sea as well as the Eastern Mediterranean, the chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff said Tuesday during a presentation of the NATO member-nation’s strategic priorities for the next few years.
“Greece is not only the Aegean. We also have a duty to safeguard our interests in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Vice Admiral Nicolaos Tsounis said.
His comments come amid a spate of Turkish provocations in the Aegean which have been widely linked to the rejection by Greece’s Supreme Court of an extradition request for eight Turkish military officers that fled to Greece after July’s failed coup.
The Hellenic Navy, Tsounis said, is making an effort to maximize its participation in NATO exercises. He said that the deployment of naval aviation is mandated by a strategic necessity to surveil that part of the Eastern Mediterranean under its area of responsibility. The modernization of three P-3B Orion maritime patrol aircraft is currently under way, and the first of three vessels will be operational by the end of the year.
Tsounis said that patrols by Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) in the Aegean to stem the flow of migrants into Europe will continue despite objections by Turkey, also a NATO member.
The chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff also referred to Greece’s close ties with the United States, warm relations with Israel, and close cooperation with Egypt. During a recent visit to Egypt, Tsounis signed a series of cooperation agreements, which also foresaw an increase in the number of joint drills.
Speaking about Souda Bay on Crete, Tsounis confirmed earlier Kathimerini reports that the Hellenic Navy plans to have alternating units redeploying at the naval base. Ultimately, he added, the aim is to have a significant section of the Greek fleet stationed in the area.