Greek and US defence officials meet in Washington

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Greece’s Minister of Defence, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, met with the US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd J. Austin III, on Monday at the Pentagon in Washington.

According to a press release issued by the US Department of Defense, the pair discussed the growing defence partnership between Washington and Athens and the close cooperation between the two NATO allies on basing, defence modernisation and collective defence.

Austin specifically thanked Panagiotopoulos for Greece’s “substantial support to Ukraine to defend itself from Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion.”

The leaders also discussed the need to reduce tensions in the Aegean through constructive dialogue.

The US Secretary said he would be speaking by phone with Turkish Minister of Defence, Hulusi Akar, in the coming days and urged that both Greece and Turkey need to “explore pragmatic solutions to long-standing disputes.”

Tensions have recently flared between the NATO allies over sovereignty claims concerning Greece’s Aegean islands and the circulation of a Turkish map depicting certain Greek islands, including Crete, as Turkish.

On Tuesday, Minister Akar also attacked Greece and the Greek American lobby in the United States for seeking to halt the sale of 40 F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

“With various initiatives, Greece is trying to influence as much as possible the military negotiations between Turkey and the US on the acquisition and modernization of F-16s,” Akar told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Ankara.

“A lawmaker and a group is coming out and stirring things up through certain manipulations and disinformation. We expect the United States not to fall for this game.”

Last week, the House Rules Committee voted to include an amendment by US Congressman and Democrat, Chris Pappas, in the National Defense Authorization Act which would prohibit the sale of F-16s or modernisation kits to Turkey unless certain conditions are met.

Akar expressed his irritation over the setback, stressing that the process of acquiring the jets from the US will continue.

“Turkey is a strong state. There shouldn’t be a conditional issue like ‘I’ll give you this, but you won’t do this’. Our wish is for common sense to prevail,” he said.

READ MORE: Greek and Turkish defence ministers meet amid rising tension

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