Interview with Ioannis Kefalogiannis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on and Journalist Georgia Garandziotis

The Israel-Hamas war is turning the geopolitical chessboard upside down. How is Greece affected by a prolonged conflict between Israel, a strong ally of Greece, and Hamas? Will the weapons programs running with Israel be delayed?

The Israel-Palestine relationship is one of the most difficult puzzles in modern history and the consequences of the conflict between them always go beyond its geographical footprint. There is no doubt that the terrorist attack by Hamas has destabilized the region once again. The depth of this destabilization is not yet apparent. It will largely depend on the scope that the conflict will acquire. A potential escalation, with the direct or indirect involvement of other actors, will further worsen regional security in the region, with possible consequences of a new inflationary wave in the international economy, new movements of refugees to Europe and the emergence of a new current of Islamic radicalism. The international community’s main concern at the moment must be dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is taking on alarming characteristics. Regarding the continuation of our country’s defense cooperation with Israel, this will not be affected by the conflict in the Middle East. The defense ties we have developed derive from the timeless friendship of the two peoples and our common vision for security and stability in the south-eastern Mediterranean. In this context, the integration of weapon systems of Israeli technology into the Greek arsenal is already quite extensive and will continue based on the planning of the General Staff. Our goal is, in fact, to enrich it in the field of research and innovation, in the area of ​​the defense industry.

As the war rages in the Middle East, Greece provides facilities to the US with the bases in Souda and Elefsina for the security of the personnel and means of the US Armed Forces. There are voices that emphasize the upgrading of our country’s role in the wider region, but concerns have also been expressed about Greece’s indirect involvement in the Middle East. What is your comment?

Greece has no intention of becoming part of the war conflict. It is the duty of those involved in maintaining security in the region at this time to broaden the range of possible peaceful solutions. Greece is entering the international diplomatic dialogue for the de-escalation of violence with a very specific plan of action. Defends Israel’s right to self-defense. The standard of comparison of a state cannot be the equivalent of a terrorist organization, such as Hamas. Second, it separates the Palestinian people from Hamas. Therefore, Israel’s right to self-defense must be exercised within the limits set by international law and in particular jus in bello. Third, it prioritizes humanitarian aid to Gaza. If there is a way for our country to deliver humanitarian aid by sea, it will do so very willingly. Fourth, he points out that all abductees and hostages should be released immediately. The international community and in particular the Arab countries must exert strong pressure in this direction, otherwise the risk of escalation of the conflict is great. The parallel promotion and achievement of the above objectives is not an easy exercise. We are trying to play a role as a pillar of stability in the region, respecting our strategic alliances with Israel and important Arab countries, such as Egypt, in the midst of an objectively very complicated situation.

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Given that Erdogan has opened a front with both Israel and the US, do you think this could affect the ongoing Greece-Turkey political dialogue even ahead of the MOU meetings?

We do not want the new path in Greek-Turkish relations to be affected by the conflict in the Middle East. As I mentioned before, Greece is part of the solution and not the problem. I can’t, unfortunately, say the same for her Turkey, which with its attitude justified and morally legitimized the heinous act of Hamas. In any case, we wish to maintain the climate of recession and the positive dynamics that have developed in Greek-Turkish relations recently. It is up to Turkey to demonstrate whether what we have started to build, a relationship of trust based on specific axes, will be maintained.

Greece has been armed in the last four years. However, the renewal needs are great and on many levels. Is there further reinforcement of the Armed Forces in the Ministry’s plan? What new weapons systems can we expect in 2024?

Despite the difficulties of the times and with respect to taxpayers’ money, the national armament program is proceeding on the basis of a long-term planning by the General Staff. We are committed to ensuring that our Armed Forces have the material resources required to carry out their mission. Alongside the supply of state-of-the-art weapon systems, such as frigates Belharra and aircraft Rafale, priority is given during this period to the development of programs for the maintenance and modernization of existing weapon systems of all branches. I will not hide from you that this is not at all easy, as the budget of armament programs obeys and is not exempted from the rules of the financial framework set by the European Union. However, through strict and targeted prioritization we are able to meet the demands of the military leadership to ensure our country’s deterrence capability.

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In addition to the equipment programs, there is also the need to upgrade the educational policy of the Higher Military Educational Institutions. Are you planning reforms to the Armed Forces Schools?

Reforms in the organization, operation and curriculum of the Military Schools are dictated by the need to understand the new security threats and the integration of how to deal with them into the educational policy of the Armed Forces. The professional specifications of the members of the Armed Forces must be constantly redesigned in such a way that they can respond to modern security challenges. Therefore, any changes in educational policy are designed in four main directions: The introduction of new subjects related to modern threats, such as indicative cyberwar and information operations. The integration, at the level of education, of the conclusions from the study of recent wars. The review and adaptation of the duration of the studies to the new educational needs. Encouraging and facilitating the academic development of officers and non-commissioned officers.

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