Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras used a visit to the northeastern Aegean island of Lemnos – on a trip that also included a stop in Lesvos, whose residents recently protested over the burden of increased migration flows from Turkey – to send a message of peace and resolve to neighbouring Turkey.
Tsipras said the government’s first duty is to ensure the country’s security and territorial integrity, even as it works to improve the quality of life of islanders in the border regions.
Tsipras visited the 130th Hellenic Air Force Fighter Squadron on Lemnos, where he declared that Greece remains a pillar of stability in the turbulent, destabilised broader region.
He told the gathered officers that they are protecting not only the Greek but also the EU borders, as well as the values – of democracy and humanism – that were born in Greece and spread around the world.
“Our neighbours are at times unpredictable, and they often are fond of taking provocative actions in the Aegean. We are always there to remind them that such acts lead to an impasse, because the Greek armed forces have a strong deterrent force. Especially our Air Force has proved this many times.
Tsipras said that bolstering that deterrent force is a daily task, and he cited the recent 1.1 billion euro deal to upgrade 85 F-16 fighter jets with last generation technology.
“This will maintain strong balances in the Aegean at least for the next decade and bolster our deterrent force,” the PM said.
He said that the deal is within the country’s fiscal capabilities because for the “first time” the negotiation was based on the real needs of the Air Force, and that the first upgraded F-16 Viper fighter jets will be delivered in two-and-a-half years.
“We shall have an Air Force which will be among the most capable, if not the most capable, in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Tsipras said.
Remembering fallen pilot Yorgos Baltadoros, Tsipras said that the strongest defence system is the soul of Greek pilots.
The PM said that the economic depression of the last years has not reduced Greece’s geostrategic role.
“Not only have we not lost our geopolitical power and our deterrent and operational capability, but thanks to our strong armed forces we play a decisive role in geopolitical developments in the broader region.”