Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Athens on Monday, and the two held a joint press conference following their discussion on the eastern Mediterranean and the cohesion of NATO itself.
Greece’s leader said that the issues in the eastern Mediterranean is not a “bilateral issue” and of concern to NATO partners as well as a challenge to Europe as a whole.
“A typical example is the acquisition of S400s by Turkey,” Mr Mitsotakis said.
“Greece, faithful to its national rights, is constantly striving for a peaceful settlement of disputes. It is always ready for dialogue.
“It is committed to abstaining from any threat or use of force as provided for in the founding treaty signed in Washington. That is why our country welcomes a first step from Turkey towards de-escalation. It remains to be seen whether this is an honest move or a temporary manoeuvre. We expect consistency and continuity from our neighbours. We expect an immediate date for the start of exploratory contacts with the sole issue of settling the zones in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.”
The prime minister stressed: “In the same context, it was decided to establish a direct 24-hour line of communication between military staff.”
These are measures that followed a crisis but did not avert it. It is up to Turkey to close the road to the crisis and pave the way for a solution. We are ready to meet it on this second path.”
“I had the opportunity to outline the recent decisions for reinforcing the Armed Forces,” the prime minister said, adding that he informed the NATO Secretary General about the decision to strengthen the military with 15,000 specialist permanent staff.
“Greece is one of the few countries that systematically spent more than 2 pct of its GDP on defence during the crisis period,” Mr Mitsotakis said, noting that the principle of solidarity is a cornerstone of NATO. “The word alliance means together in battle. In this case, together in the fight for peace, security and cooperation.”
On his part, Stoltenberg described the discussions held in Brussels within the framework of NATO and the establishment of a deconfliction mechanism as constructive, noting that this meant a direct line for dialogue 24 hours a day to facilitate de-escalation.
He also congratulated “our allies” for this effort and said that the mechanism can help to create space for diplomatic efforts, while adding that there should be a spirit of solidarity between the allies under international law.
Stoltenberg praised Greece’s contribution to NATO and its operations, expressing gratitude for its contribution, and welcomed the fact that Greece spends more than 2 per cent on defence.
“Greece was at the forefront of the fight to tackle the refugee crisis,” Stoltenberg said, adding that NATO displays solidarity toward Greece.
He said that he supports the Greek and Turkish authorities as well as the Frontex in this battle, and thanked Greece for all the efforts made.
He also noted that this demonstrates that NATO helps the efforts of its member-states and noted that NATO is invaluable for everyone.
Mr Stoldenberg welcomed the strengthening of the Greek Armed Forces, which automatically means the strengthening of NATO, as he said, noting that Greek fighter jets contribute to missions and help greatly in maintaining safe airspace in Montenegro, adding that Greek military vessels are a valuable link in the NATO chain.
All this contribution keeps Greece strong and NATO strong, Stoltenberg underlined adding that the security situation in the wider region was also discussed.
He said that they discussed concerns about Russia’s growing presence in the Mediterranean, noting that this has implications for NATO’s security and has to be tackled together. He added, also, that the NATO alliance was an effective platform for dialogue, with allies from Europe and North America meeting daily to discuss issues of vital importance to their security, no matter how difficult or thorny some of them were. This is, he noted, was because “we know how much stronger we are if we join forces”, while the alliance was strong because there was solidarity between its members. Finally, he thanked Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for “his important and tireless efforts and support for the alliance.”