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Ex-minister Apostolakis hails US-Greece defense deal

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Defense, US, Turkey, Interview

The extension of a defense agreement between Athens and Washington, signed on Saturday, and increasing the US military presence around the country will help boost Greece’s sense of security and modernize domestic military infrastructure, according to former defense minister Evangelos Apostolakis.

In an interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, Apostolakis, a former chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), said the amendment to the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) will make it easier for the Americans to deploy ships and use additional military bases in Greece when the need arises.

“Furthermore, they will be able to build or enhance existing infrastructure so it can accommodate more troops,” he said.

Apostolakis said that Greece’s priorities should be reorganizing its military, completing the modernization of its F-16 fighter jets and upgrading its fleet of Meko frigates. But he also saw an opportunity for Greece to join the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, also following Turkey’s exclusion due to its purchase of a Russian missile defense system.

“If we were given an opportunity to quickly join the program… we could then upgrade only part of our F-16s,” he said, adding that Greece could purchase a number of F-35s instead.

Asked about Turkey’s aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean, Apostolakis said, “Turkey’s effort to impose its views and achieve its military objectives is creating problems not only for Greece but for all states” in the region.

He said he regretted that Washington has not pushed Ankara as much as Athens had hoped on the issue. “Because the Americans want to keep Turkey close to them at any cost, the pressure has been lax,” he said. “At the same time, the European Union, for reasons that we all understand, does not wish to enter in direct confrontation with Turkey,” he added.

Although Apostolakis did not rule out the chance of an “incident” in the Aegean, he said it was not in Ankara’s interest to trigger one.

“It would add yet another problem to [Turkey’s] already long list, without [yielding] any substantial benefit.”

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