Vit­sas dis­putes Kam­menos and leaks

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Al­ter­nate De­fense Min­is­ter Dim­itris Vit­sas sought yes­ter­day to dis­tance him­self from se­nior sources at the min­istry that leaked to jour­nal­ists this week that Greece ex­pects a mil­i­tary in­ci­dent or­ches­trated by Turkey off the coast of Cyprus in the sum­mer.

Speak­ing to SKAI TV yes­ter­day, Vit­sas said “there is no in­for­ma­tion of an im­mi­nent in­ci­dent in Cyprus,” adding that he was in agree­ment with the as­sess­ment on Thurs­day of Cyprus gov­ern­ment spokesman Nikos Christodoulides, who said, af­ter talk­ing on the phone about the is­sue with For­eign Min­is­ter Nikos Kotzias, that Ni­cosia was not work­ing on the as­sump­tion that Turkey was plan­ning an in­ci­dent in June – the month when France’s To­tal com­pany will be­gin ex­trac­tion of nat­u­ral gas from Block 11 in the is­land’s ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters.

But Vit­sas also dis­tanced him­self from his boss Panos Kam­menos, who an­nounced the pur­chase of new fifth-gen­er­a­tion fighter jets, say­ing this is­sue “is not un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Greece, Vit­sas said, will be in a po­si­tion to buy such air­craft (F-35 mod­els) in about 2025. He added that given that the min­istry’s bud­get over the next decade will amount to 474 mil­lion eu­ros per year – be­yond the costs of up­grad­ing the F-16 fleet – Greece can­not af­ford the planes now.

He in­sisted, how­ever, that Greece needs to boost its de­fenses to face “pos­si­ble threats against Greece.”

Mean­while, re­ports from Cyprus sug­gest that aides to Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades are livid at the leaks com­ing from the Greek De­fense Min­istry as it could cast a shadow over the gas ex­trac­tion process by To­tal.

More­over, the leaks could also dis­rupt in­creased tourist flows ex­pected this year on the is­land.

The leaks have also riled Greek par­ties, with 12 con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers tabling a ques­tion to Par­lia­ment ask­ing Kotzias, as the man re­spon­si­ble for the coun­try’s for­eign pol­icy, whether the in­for­ma­tion con­tained in the leaks was known to the For­eign Min­istry and if he agrees with it.

Law­mak­ers also asked Kotzias what pre-emp­tive mea­sures he will take if the in­for­ma­tion about an in­ci­dent on Cyprus is in­deed re­li­able.

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