Alternate Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas sought on Friday to distance himself from senior sources at the ministry that leaked to journalists this week that Greece expects a military incident orchestrated by Turkey off the coast of Cyprus in the summer.
Speaking to SKAI TV, Vitsas said “there is no information of an imminent incident in Cyprus,” adding that he was in agreement with the assessment on Thursday of Cyprus government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides, who said, after talking on the phone about the issue with Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, that Nicosia was not working on the assumption that Turkey was planning an incident in June – the month when France’s Total company will begin extraction of natural gas from Block 11 in the island’s territorial waters.
But Vitsas also distanced himself from his boss Panos Kammenos, who announced the purchase of new fifth-generation fighter jets, saying this issue “is not under consideration.”
Greece, Vitsas said, will be in a position to buy such aircraft (F-35 models) in about 2025. He added that given that the ministry’s budget over the next decade will amount to 474 million euros per year – beyond the costs of upgrading the F-16 fleet – Greece cannot afford the planes now.He insisted, however, that Greece needs to boost its defenses to face “possible threats against Greece.”
Meanwhile, reports from Cyprus suggest that aides to President Nicos Anastasiades are livid at the leaks coming from the Greek Defense Ministry as it could cast a shadow over the gas extraction process by Total.
Moreover, the leaks could also disrupt increased tourist flows expected this year on the island.
The leaks have also riled Greek parties, with 12 conservative lawmakers tabling a question to Parliament asking Kotzias, as the man responsible for the country’s foreign policy, whether the information contained in the leaks was known to the Foreign Ministry and if he agrees with it. Lawmakers also asked Kotzias what pre-emptive measures he will take if the information about an incident on Cyprus is indeed reliable.