Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos asked Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland for U.S. intervention in order to alleviate IMF's harsh stance on the pension-reform issue and facilitate the successful completion of the ongoing negotiations between Greece and its international creditors. The meeting took place on Friday morning at the State Department.
Mr. Kammenos said that it is critical for U.S. interests to help stabilize Greece's economy in a period that ISIS is expanding its influence on Southeastern Mediterranean and Balkan region. As he explained, U.S. must exercise its influence on the IMF for helping cut the Gordian Knot and surpassing the stalemate of the never-ending negotiations.
According to sources from the Greek delegation, Ms. Nuland was responsive to the minister's request. She even interrupted temporarily the meeting and called the Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew trying to engage him directly in the conversation.
Two hours after the meeting, Mr. Lew spoke by telephone with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Greek media interpreted the call as a sign that Washington is assuming a more direct role in the fiscal negotiations.
Domestic Terrorism – Bilateral Cooperation with Russia
The Greek minister underscored that Ms. Nuland did not voice concerns over the issue of domestic terrorism during their meeting. Greek government's new prison-reform law, which would allow radical bombers accused of killing Americans to serve the rest of their term under house arrest, had triggered intense reaction from the State Department.
But Mr. Kammenos admitted that State Department's diplomats expressed concerns over the deepening ties between Greece's newly elected government and Russia urging the country to resist Russian's energy project.
"I explained to madam secretary that Greece maintains the same geopolitical orientation and that we are a committed ally member of NATO. We do not intent to cooperate with Russia in the field of defense," Kammenos said. "However, we must not neglect the fact that Greece has strong historic, economic, and cultural ties with Russia. The pipeline project is an economically interesting proposal, so we must examine it."
Proposal for New NATO Airbase
The defense minister had a first hand opportunity to explain in person his proposal to build a new NATO airbase on Karpathos, an island located on the southeastern Aegean Sea.
Turkey has insisted that the island complex of the region is a demilitarized area, a claim that is not accepted by the Greek government. Kammenos proposal for the installment of a new airbase under the veil of NATO seeks to de facto undermine the Turkish position and build a strong precedent for the Greek case.
Ms. Nuland expressed initially her hesitation citing defense budget cuts and raising questions about the cost of the project. The Greek minister responded that the airport is already constructed insisting that the only additional financial burden would be pertinent to supporting infrastructure and personnel appointments.
The American side seemed kin to the idea that Greece can play a role in combatting terrorism through the creation of a new NATO airbase on the Aegean in conjunction with the existing Souda base on Crete.
Invitation to Travel to Israel
After the State Department meeting, defense minister visited the Greek embassy, where he held a press conference. During the briefing, Mr. Kammenos announced that he accepted an invitation by his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon to visit Israel on July 19th.
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