[Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro/DoD]
The United States is interested in increasing its use of military bases and ports in Greece, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said on the second day of his official visit to the country on Tuesday.
“If you look at geography, and you look at current operations in Libya, and you look at current operations in Syria, you look at potential other operations in the eastern Mediterranean, the geography of Greece and the opportunities here are pretty significant,” Gen. Joseph Dunford was quoted as saying by the Military Times website.
Dunford was speaking during a visit to the Ministry of Defense in Athens during which he met with the chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, whose tenure was renewed Tuesday.
No specific bases have as of yet been identified, according to the report, however, several options are being evaluated by General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of US European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander.
“Those are discussions that Gen. Scap and others are having right now, as they look around the region in terms of where they want to put forces within the next five to 10 years,” Military Times quoted an unnamed official as saying to reporters.
The US is keen to boost trade and military cooperation with Greece as tension with Turkey lingers over a series of regional and political disputes. Meanwhile, Greece’s relations with Turkey and Russia are strained.
According to the report, Dunford said that American interest in Greek bases was not related to the US-Turkey standoff, adding he expected that the US would continue to make use of Incirlik air force base in southern Turkey.
"The military-to-military relationship between the US and Greece is stronger than ever and is a testament to the strategic partnership we have forged over many years as close NATO allies and friends who share democratic values and strong cultural ties," Dunford said.
"Greece continues to be a pillar of stability and security in the region, providing key leadership on a multitude of security challenges, to include counterterrorism and maritime security. We are very thankful to the Greek people for their strong support in hosting US military forces in locations such as Naval Support Activity Souda Bay and look forward to working with the Greek military to explore ways to expand our bilateral security cooperation."
Meanwhile Tuesday, the Greek prime minister’s office said that the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) had decided to extend Apostolakis’s tenure.
Apostolakis, who first assumed office in September 2015, will serve for a fourth consecutive year. [Combined reports]