Greece is in favor of a peaceful settlement to all disputes between nations but is also “firmly committed to defending its national positions, as defined by international law and treaties,” Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis told a conference in Athens on Monday.
Speaking at the Institute of International Relations' Summer Seminar, the former chief of the national defense general staff stressed the challenges of maintaining Greece's role as a stabilizing force in an increasingly turbulent region, adding that Athens' measured reaction to a recent spike in aggression from its “difficult neighbor” Turkey, “should not be misinterpreted as weakness.”
Athens and Ankara need to keep the lines of communication open and to persist with confidence building measures so as to defuse tensions, Apsotolakis said, warning that “allowing tension to build up carries the risk of an accident and involves the possibility of a further escalation.”
Apostolakis praised the European Union for its stern response to Turkish efforts to explore for natural gas reserves in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone, hailing Brussels' threat of sanctions last month as “the first time it sent such a clear message in... support of Cyprus' position.”
The Greek defense minister also expressed his support for the strengthening ties between Athens and Washington, saying that the defense relationship between Greece and the United States is “at the best level it has ever been.”
On efforts to modernize Greece's armed forces, Apostolakis pointed to the recent delivery of several American helicopters, plans for upgrading the country's fleet of F-16 and Mirage fighter jets and for bolstering the navy with new frigates and upgrades to the existing ones, as well as improvements to the air surveillance system.