Defense Minister Panos Kammenos met with Israeli counterpart, Moshe Ya’alon

The Ministers of Defense of Israel and Greece, Moshe Ya’alon and Panos Kammenos, on Tuesday met at the Greek Pentagon, where they emphasized the importance of bilateral strategic cooperation.

Minister Panos Kammenos stated:

“We received with great pleasure today our friend, the Minister of National Defence of Israel, Mr. Moshe Ya’alon. We were given the opportunity to have a deep review of the excellent cooperation we had so far. We had the chance to sign a common declaration which affirms our commitment for a new period of a strategic, essential and mutually beneficial defence cooperation.

The expansion of our relations will go through the enhancement of strategic dialogue, our cooperation on military training and our joint exercises which take place in the region of the Mediterranean, in Israel and in Greece. It can also go through the reinforcement of intelligence exchange – especially in the field of terrorism, which is now a defence issue, a global issue – the cooperation of our defence industries and the common projects of defence industries which met during my meeting in Israel, but also here, with businessmen and industries. I believe that this will help the country’s financial development and the exploitation of all available fields for mutual action.

We decided to have ministerial meetings more frequently, which will be made twice a year, one in Greece and one in Israel. We also decided, besides policy, to also enhance practice, the technical dimension of our cooperation, by examining and exploiting through common work specific action plans, within our fixed time-schedules.

We share the exact same concerns on the developments within the sensitive area of the Eastern Mediterranean; the traditional and also the new threats and we reinforce – and it is very logical – our deterrence power. Cooperation shows us the way to face the threats in our neighbourhood. Greece believes in regional and international cooperation so as to face them and works towards this direction within the European Union and NATO. I would like to assure you that close defence cooperation with Israel gives us the opportunity to come closer with the moderate countries of the Middle East and of North Africa, with which we can – and we should – cooperate to face Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and those forces who want to destabilise the broader region.

I would like to thank Mr. Minister since, with the policy he has drawn at the Defence Ministry of Israel, but also with the military leadership if Israel which exceptionally cooperates with the Greek military leadership, through common exercises and the exchange of training and visits, we can – and this is our goal – create a safe axis which begins at Israel, continues through Cyprus to Greece and – why not – goes north to Bulgaria and then south to Egypt and Jordan.

The fate of our peoples is common and I am certain that this cooperation existing at military level can extend to other fields as well, after the meeting our Prime Minister will have in the next days with a great part of the Governmental Council during his visit in Israel.

Finally, I would like to thank General Gilad for all the preparation from the Israeli part, who has been preparing for years, along with his partners, and has helped a lot to the building of this cooperation, as well as her Excellency the Ambassador of Israel who, with her appointment here, has helped to the fast enhancement of these relations, the Israeli Military Attaché and also the Ambassador Mr. Karayiannis and the diplomatic team of the Greek Ministry of National defence, as well as the Chief of HNDGS Admiral Apostolakis and all the Chiefs of Staff and Officers who have been involved so far”.

During a press conference, Greek Defense Minister, Panos Kammenos was called to comment on immigration and terrorism:

JOURNALIST’S Q.: You have referred to Greek and Israeli common interests and you said that this strategic cooperation with a military – as well as diplomatic – background has a strategic goal. Can you tell me, against which threat does this enhanced Greek-Israeli cooperation – with the possible participation of Cyprus, Jordan and Egypt – take place?

P. KAMMENOS: “I would like to agree first of all with what Mr. minister said and remind you that the two greatest issues currently faced by the West are terrorism and immigration. Both issues emanate from the situation on the broader area. In order to face terrorism, we need cooperation; cooperation for the exchange of intelligence, cooperation so as to eliminate all threats against innocent citizens, like the attack we recently saw in Paris. Immigration is a huge problem as well, which has been caused due to the civil war in Syria and the situation in North Africa. We see that the immigration issue, as we had warmed very long ago, is actually the means to promote terrorism, through innocent refugees and their families.

No matter how many refugees can Europe and Greece host, this will not be the solution. The solution will be for the refugees to be able to return to their homeland and houses, and to create the security conditions in the area which will allow financial growth in their region. Europe cannot absorb that many immigrants, nor can Greece.

The second issue is the financing of terrorism. Where does terrorism ensure funds from? From the smuggling of oil, drugs and people. Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Egypt you referred to, if you connect the lines you will see that they include a very sensitive area in the Mediterranean that controls trafficking from the Suez Canal until Gibraltar, from the North Sea to Suez, and it is where these paths meet. Therefore, if in the area between the countries you mentioned, at the delimitation of the EEZ, the economic zone, we manage to create the conditions that will not allow the smuggling of illegal oil, weapons, drugs and people, we will be able to ensure that the financing of terrorism will stop. And, of course, we saw with the recent cooperation between Israel and Cyprus that we can all work together and produce wealth for our countries.

This cooperation can expand with companies that share interests and with the Greek oil and gas reserves which are within the Greek EEZ. Finally, the energy paths; in order to establish safe energy paths, we need to have defence cooperation. The delimitation of the EEZ will expand the country’s defence arch by several miles. This calls for cooperation, close relations and, of course, preparation with joint exercises. And this is exactly what we do.

JOURNALIST’S Q.: Mister Minister, can Turkey become a part of the Cyprus-Greece-Egypt-Jordan axis and help, as the Europeans also wish, with the issues of immigration and terrorism? And under which circumstances?

P. KAMMENOS: We would all like Turkey to have good intentions and to come by our side for the common planning to face terrorism. We would all like Turkey to have a stance befitting international law and regulations. However, this requires a change of her attitude. In order to have a good relation and cooperation with a country, you need to recognize it first. Turkey still has not recognized Cyprus.

The second issue is terrorism. The truth is that the majority of oil smuggled by Daesh, by the terrorists, is smuggled through Turkey, thus financing terrorism. It would be desired if Turkey decided to change its stance, stopped cooperating with terrorism and stopped making actions that create problems in the region, if it used the EU’s funding and managed to stop the refugee flow to the coastline of Asia Minor, for its own benefit, naturally with the exchanges it would receive by the international community, in order to transform the Mediterranean to a sea of peace, cooperation and stability.

We are here, only with good intentions. We hope that the Erdogan led Government will stop directing Turkey towards fundamentalism and decide to turn the boat towards the values of the West, the values of the axis of the good, to the benefit of its citizens and of the broader region as well.

SOURCE/PHOTO: Ministry of Defense, Greece