NEWS

Incirlik crisis may mean enhanced NATO role for Greece's Souda Bay

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Defense, Diplomacy

An ongoing crisis between Turkey and its NATO allies in the West regarding the use of the Incirlik airbase, in the country’s southeast, is fueling speculation about an upgraded role for the alliance’s base at Souda Bay on Crete, Kathimerini understands.

Sources have told Kathimerini that the Souda Bay base is being used a lot more than it was in the past and that activities at the base are being extended.

One aspect of the more pronounced American presence in Greece of late can be seen in the increasingly frequent joint training exercises involving US units and Greek special forces, the same sources note.

A so-called mutual defense cooperation agreement between Greece and the US, which provides for the operation of a US naval support facility at Souda Bay and is renewed annually, is likely to be upgraded into a five-year agreement, sources have suggested.

There are fears, however, that occasional tensions between Washington and Ankara might spill over into the Aegean, often used by Turkey for attempted shows of force.

Greek defense sources have pointed to a spike in Turkish violations of Greek air space and territorial waters in recent weeks. And there are said to be concerns that this activity will peak on Monday and Tuesday when the Conference for Security and Stability is held on Rhodes.

The conference, taking place on the island for a second straight year, will be attended by representatives from European and Arab countries, namely Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lebanon, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Libya, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

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