Washington, DC.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
Photo: GANP/Dimitrios Panagos
Security and defense issues of mutual concern topped the agenda of the talks between U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Greece’s Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos at the Pentagon ,on Friday, according a readout by Pentagon Spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis. These issues included trans-Mediterranean migration; terrorism; and instability in the Balkans, Northern Africa, and the Middle East.
Welcoming Minister Kammenos, General Mattis surprised everyone speaking about Souda Bay Base, saying “there may be some need to expand it a little bit”.
U.S. is considering Souda Bay as one of the alternatives for their operations in the Middle East, following the temporary closing of the Insirlik Base in Turkey after the military coup attempt.
Secretary Mattis welcomed Kammenos at the Pentagon praising him for his leadership in keeping Greek armed forces well equipped and ready and well funded.
“And certainly you mentioned Souda Bay here while we were getting our picture taken, key Naval facility that we share with you. We’re grateful for hosting us when we need to be in there, maybe some need to expand it a little bit. We’ll certainly look at that, but the largest deep water port in the Mediterranean, we’re very, very fortunate, it’s in the hands of capable NATO nation for the southern flank.”
According to the Pentagon spokesperson, Secretary Mattis thanked Greece for being one of five NATO allies that invests two percent of its GDP on defense, and expressed his appreciation to Minister Kammenos for hosting U.S. forces at Souda Bay, Crete. He also noted Greece’s participation in NATO’s Aegean Activity and Kosovo Force and Greece’s strategic support in the counter-terrorism and extremism fight.
The secretary and Minister Kammenos agreed that security along NATO’s southern flank is of great importance to the entire alliance. Finally, Secretary Mattis congratulated the minister and the people of Greece on their 196th anniversary of independence, which is celebrated tomorrow. The two leaders look forward to continued future engagement.
Speaking to the Greek press, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos predicted the beginning of a new era in Greek-U.S. relations in defense. According to Kammenos, the new Trump administration understood the special role of the nation-state and the ability of states “with history and special ties to develop relations.”
“They are well aware that Greece’s close and historic cooperation with Israel and its ability to ‘speak the same language’ as the Arab countries will help us work for peace and democracy, not just for ourselves but for the wider region,” he added, while something similar was true in the Balkans.
Regarding Turkish provocations in the Aegean, Kammenos said there was agreement that “no new fronts” should be opened in the region. “We already have open fronts in Libya and Syria. Care must be taken so as not to create issues where there are none,” he said, while noting that the U.S. side was aware of the Turkish activity.
Kammenos said that he had invited Mattis to visit Greece and that he had accepted the invitation.
The meeting focused on bilateral cooperation, NATO and the base in Souda and initiatives Greece can undertake in the broader Mediterranean region with third countries to create a “shield of stability and cooperation” with Israel, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to the south and east and with Bulgaria and Romania in the north.