Government tension over defense minister’s Karpathos base proposal

Recent comments by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos that he has proposed to the United States the creation of a new NATO airbase on Karpathos, in the southeastern Aegean, on Monday received a cold reaction from coalition leaders SYRIZA.

“Everyone has a right to express their opinion, often putting their own touch, but as SYRIZA’s representative in the ministry I want to be very clear that this is not a decision or a position of the current government,” Alternate Minister for Defense Costas Isichos said in an interview with Eleftheria newspaper in Larissa.

Kammenos, leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks, a populist right-wing party, said he had discussed the possibility of hosting another air base on Greek territory with US officials during talks last week on combating Islamic State jihadists. According to reports, Kammenos has also raised the prospect of making available a base on Kastellorizo, near the Turkish border.

Meanwhile, in a question submitted to Parliament Monday, New Democracy MP Costas Tassoulas demanded information on the cost of Kammenos’s visit to Washington. Denying media reports of overspending, the ministry has said that the visit cost 300 dollars per day.

Also on Monday, the ministry said that Kammenos will visit Israel on July 19 to 21 following an invitation by his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon. The invitation was passed onto Kammenos by Israeli Ambassador to Athens Irit Ben-Abba during their meeting at the ministry yesterday.

Kammenos has in the past suggested that members of the Jewish community in Greece pay less tax than other citizens. The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece had described his comment as a “serious anti-Semitic act.”

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