07 August, 2006
In an interview in Sunday's edition of "Eleftherotypia" newspaper, Meimarakis, responding to criticism from the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), referred to "the participation of the Navy in operations for the evacuation of foreign nationals from Lebanon and to the humanitarian aid which our country is giving from the very first moment."
He stressed that "interventions were made both by the Prime Minister (Costas Karamanlis) and by the Foreign Minister (Dora Bakoyannis), who pioneers in the efforts of the international community for peace in the Middle East."
The defense minister said that "it is premature for us to discuss whether Greece will take part in a peacekeeping operation, given that there is not yet a request."
To a question whether he believed that the developments in Lebanon will have an affect on Greek-Turkish relations, Meimarakis replied that "I do not see it possible," adding that "Greece is working for the creation of a climate of zero tension in the region."
Referring to the recent visit to Turkey by National Defense General Staff chief Admiral Panagiotis Hinofotis, Meimarakis termed its results as "encouraging." He said that "in this visit military issues were discussed which have to do with confidence-building measures and the techniques for the greatest results of these measures were examined."
Meimarakis also stressed that "Greece supports Turkey's European course." However, he underlined that "the government has made it clear that a blank cheque is not given to anyone," given that "that Turkey's complete adherence to relations of good neighborliness is demanded."
On the armaments program and particularly on the purchase of aircraft, the minister said that "the needs of the Air Force have been covered in part with the purchase of 30 F-16" and that "for the other 30 required for the number of 60 new aircraft to be completed, we will make an assessment both on the operational aspect as well as on the cost."
On armaments, he said that "the aim of government is for expenditures to be reduced and not exceed one per cent of the Gross National Product.'
Source: Athens News Agency