The Greek government reacted strongly to Defense Minister Panos Kammenos’ proposal to his U.S. counterpart for a Balkan defense zone as a Plan B to FYROM’s accession to NATO.
While in Washington for an official visit, Kammenos proposed to U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis a defense agreement between Greece, FYROM, Albania, Bulgaria, and Serbia at a later date, in order to form an arc of stability in the Balkans.
At the same time the Greek defense minister propose the establishment of three more U.S. military bases in Greece. Specifically, he suggested Volos, Larisa, and Alexandroupolis as cities to host the bases.
The Greek defense minister argued that a strong U.S. military presence in Greece is important in a period in which new threats are arising.
In his meeting with Wes Mitchell, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Kammenos said that the referendum in FYROM on the name issue shows that the majority of citizens do not support the Prespa agreement, which, he said, is a factor that will perpetuate irredentism.
Kammenos appeared certain that the Skopje government will fail to pass the constitutional amendments required by the accord. In that light he submitted a Plan B, which he said would meet the geopolitical aims of the Prespa agreement, without touching on the name change issue, which can be postponed.
Greek government reacts to Kammenos’ statements
“The Greek government remains committed to the Prespa Agreement, it respects the constitutional processes in the neighbor country and supports Mr (Zoran) Zaev’s efforts to fulfill the conditions for the agreement to come into force,” government sources commented, according to a 24/7 News 88.6 radio.
Deputy Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos spoke on the same radio station Wednesday saying that the proposal for a NATO alternative defense alliance in the Balkans with FYROM’s participation has not been discussed in the foreign ministry and there is no official alternative to the Prespa agreement.
Katrougalos also said that an alternative to the Prespa agreement was never discussed in the government council either.
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias had previously criticized Kammenos for his opposing views to the Prespa agreement. When the defense minister took the position against the Prespa agreement and indirectly accused the government for signing the deal, Kotzias had stated that only the foreign minister and the prime minister are responsible for issues of foreign policy.