Greek Military Presence in Afghanistan Not Increasing

Athens.- ANA – U.S. Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Nicholas Burns on Friday expressed the satisfaction of the United States over Greece’s participation in the NATO alliance’s operations in Afghanistan so far, while at the same time requesting an increase in the number of the Greek and of the rest of the forces serving with the NATO force there.

“We are very grateful for the presence of the Greek forces and for the participation of Greece,” he said, adding that “we hope that Greece, as well as the other allies, will examine the possibility of doing more. We would hope that Greece would be in a position to provide a greater number of forces and this is the message that we are also sending to our other allies in NATO.”

Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, replying to questions by the press on statements and assessments on a supposed increase in the number if Greek troops in Afghanistan, said on Friday that Greek military presence in Afghanistan will not increase.

“As Foreign Minister Mrs. Dora Bakoyannis has clearly stated, the Greek presence in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, by decision of the UN Security Council, remains as it was from the point of view of manpower. Not even one Greek soldier is being added,” the spokesman said.

“Greece’s latest contribution to international efforts for stability and the reconstruction of Afghanistan concerns exclusively the following,” Koumoutsakos added.

a) An extension of 3+3 months, 6 in all, for the stay of the medical unit.

b) A contribution of 300,000 euros to the UN’s special fund to handle the problem of drugs in Afghanistan.

c) 500,000 euros in four reconstruction and support programmes, in cooperation with Hungary, in the following funds: health, training, farm development and water resources management.

d) The granting in the form of a donation to the Afghan armed forces of 10-13 tanks of the M-60 A3 type.

Greece’s Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Friday said that the international community must succeed in its mission to make Afghanistan stable and secure and that Greece will continue to contribute to efforts for its reconstruction.

She made the statements in Brussels after taking part in Friday’s meeting on the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan by NATO foreign ministers, on the sidelines of which she also met U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.

Developments in Kosovo following the recent elections in Serbia were also on the agenda during her talks with Rice – as in the NATO meeting earlier – while they also discussed Greece’s possible entry in the U.S. Visa Waiver programme.

Bakoyannis noted that Greece issued high-security passports and hoped to join the Visa Waiver programme, which would mean that Greek citizens would no longer be obliged to obtain visas in order to visit the United States.

Speaking after the NATO meeting, the minister stressed that further efforts must be made to help the Afghan people, particularly in the social sector, such as education, health and the fight against drugs.

She said that Greece will continue contributing to the effort for the reconstruction of Afghanistan in the following way: with a 120-strong engineering battalion, which is already there; with the additional number of Greek officers who already fill various posts on the ISAF staff; extending the stay of a 45-staff hospital unit which is stationed in Kabul airport by six months; contributing 300,000 euros in 2007 to a special UN fund for dealing with drug problems; providing 500,000 euros in economic aid to four programmes for agricultural development, water resource management, education and health; donating 10 to 13 M-60 A3 tanks to Afghan forces.

Regarding developments in Kosovo, Bakoyannis said that NATO member-states wished to avoid possible problems after UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari submits his proposals regarding the future status of Kosovo.

With respect to Serbia, the minister said that following Serbia’s entry into NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, she expected that the EU would follow the same path of cooperation and trust.

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