U.S. says will contact Turkey over Aegean tensions

U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin met with Greek Minister of Defence Nikos Panagiotopoulos on Monday at the Pentagon to discuss the growing defence partnership between Washington and Athens and the close cooperation between the two NATO allies on basing, defence modernisation and collective defence – particularly amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. During the meeting, Austin said he will contact his Turkish counterpart to discuss tensions in the Aegean. 

“The Secretary specifically thanked Minister Panagiotopoulos for Greece’s substantial support to Ukraine to defend itself from Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion,” acting Pentagon press secretary Todd Breasseale said in a statement to the press.

“Secretary Austin shared appreciation for Greece hosting U.S. forces at Souda Bay as well as the recent expansion of our activities there and other locations in Greece. Secretary Austin also thanked Greece for the use of the Port of Alexandropouli which has been instrumental in moving U.S. forces and equipment to and through NATO’s Eastern Flank,” Breasseale said.

The two also discussed the need to reduce tensions with Turkey in the Aegean “through constructive dialogue.” Austin noted he would be speaking by phone with Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar in the coming days. He urged that both sides explore “pragmatic solutions to long-standing disputes.”  

Austin furthermore thanked Greece for consistently exceeding its NATO defence spending and modernisation commitments, which will enhance interoperability between the two militaries.

In his comments, Panagiotopoulos emphasised the significance of a strong strategic defence partnership between the two NATO allies, drawing attention to the renewal of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement.

“A new milestone of this strategic partnership is without doubt the procurement of the state-of-the-art F-35 fighter, a major step for our deterrence and even closer interaction, coordination and interoperability between the armed force of Greece and the United States,” he said.

(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)

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