By Staff Reporter
Greece plans to boost defence cooperation with Cyprus in more practical ways in the coming months including possible tri-partite exercises with Egypt, its Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said on Wednesday during his visit to the island.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Cypriot counterpart Christoforos Fokaides in Nicosia, Kammenos said that for the Greek government, the Cyprus issue remained one of invasion and occupation.
He referred to Turkey’s violation of Cyprus’ economic zone by the seismic vessel Barbaros, calling it a “clear provocation”, and added that despite efforts to improve relations, Turkey had continued with the same policy it followed after the invasion and occupation of Cyprus.
Kammenos said Ankara could not continue to ignore international law, UN resolutions and the existence of an EU member state, which it persisted in doing where Cyprus was concerned.
“We want peace but we are ready to respond, if necessary to any attempt to infringe on the national sovereignty or territorial integrity of the wider defence area of Greece and Cyprus,” Kammenos said.
He also announced that the Greek armed forces were planning, in the coming months, joint exercises with Cyprus, Israel and possibly Egypt.
Asked whether all this meant that the Cyprus-Greece Joint Defence Dogma of the 1990s was being resurrected, Kammenos did not use the specific term but said there would be a rearrangement of relations through practical cooperation and a stronger and more permanent presence of officers on both sides.
He said “the defensive shield of Hellenism” extended from Thrace, through the Aegean Sea to Cyprus, and spoke about additional defence provisions relating to the new geopolitical challenges in the region, especially for hydrocarbons-producing countries .
Fokaides thanked the Greek minister for his country’s support and announced that for the first time, a National Guard officer would be stationed in Athens as a liaison between Cyprus and the Greek defence forces.
“Greece was and remains a steady and selfless defender of the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and a consistent advocate in its fight for liberation from the [Turkish] occupation and for the reunification of our country,” Fokaides said.
He said both countries were facing great challenges and the visit by Kammenos was a “strong confirmation of our fraternal bonds and our common path”.
“We seek to deepen and strengthen our bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the field of defense and security,” he said, adding that the policy of the two countries was synonymous with the defence of the principles of international and European law.
“We are working to address common threats, rather than creating new ones. We seek to jointly solve problems, not create other problems, “Fokaides said.
“At the same time it would be wrong if our readiness and our determination to defend our national rights were underestimated”