London, September 12, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Thanasis Gavos
The Greek government has stated its willingness to contribute to the UN’s drive to upgrade its peacekeeping missions around the world.
Participating in a UN ministerial conference hosted in London on 8th September Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos offered two internationally certified military training centres in Kilkis, northern Greece and Souda, Crete for the training of UN peacekeepers.
The Greek pledge to the conference, attended by some 80 countries, also reaffirmed the Greek military forces’ intention to train the members of the newly founded coastguard of the new Libyan administration.
Greece has already provided an amphibian vessel to the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The Defence Ministry stands ready to also provide UNIFIL with a C-130 or C-27 military transport helicopter, as well as a larger vessel, should such a request be handed in.
The ministerial conference gave Mr Kammenos the opportunity to discuss a number of matters of mutual interest with counterparts. He stressed the fact that Greece is one of the very few countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region that talks to both Israel and the Arab countries, able to act as a mediator in periods of tension.
IBNA sources have confirmed that Greece seeks to be one of the involved actors in the potential establishment of refugee camps within Syrian territory, in safe zones in the south-western border with Lebanon. “It is an idea that of course has to be formally discussed and approved within the UN and the Security Council,” a Greek defence source told IBNA. Lebanon seems to have reacted positively to the idea and so has Greece. “Greece would be very interested in such a UN initiative. There could even be a Greek peacekeeping force as part of the wider UN involvement,” said the same official.
Greek defence officials have also been keeping a close eye on developments in Turkey, following the failed coup attempt and the retaliation by President Erdogan. Greek officials say that there have been no ‘serious’ Turkish violations of Greek air space since Erdogan’s mass culling of the military personnel.
In view of what has been regarded as a weakening of the operational capability of the NATO air base in Incirlik, the Greek side is said to have floated the idea of offering an alternative, even if temporary, “stable” foothold to the Alliance’s forces in the Aegean. An official with knowledge of the matter has said that Karpathos is considered as the ideal candidate island from the Greek viewpoint – both potentially receptive to the idea and also a means of eliminating concerns over the security status of Kastellorizo.
In talks with his British counterpart Michael Fallon, Panos Kammenos discussed the role that Greece can play in eradicating the “illegal oil’s, arms’ and people’s smuggling in the Eastern Mediterranean, which seems to be a main funding source for ISIS.”
The two ministers have also discussed the possibility of joint training for military aircraft pilots at the Kalamata centre, on the southern tip of the Peloponnese. The Defence Minister considers the Kalamata centre as a potential international point of reference in terms of bilaterally arranged military training, while officials have also been examining the possibility of thinly used Aegean island airports doubling as training spots during the winter months.