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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Greek Minister of Defense Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Mr. Minister, I'm delighted to finally host you at the Pentagon, and it's great to see you again after the NATO Summit in Madrid, which was -- which was a great and historic summit.

That Summit underscored the importance of transatlantic relationships to our shared security. And that's especially crucial as Ukraine continues to fight back against Russia's unprovoked and unjust invasion. So, Mr. Minister, I want to thank you for the security assistance that Greece is providing to support Ukraine in the face of Russia's indefensible assault on its peaceful neighbor.

Now your prime minister in May visited Washington to meet with President Biden and to deliver a historic address to a joint session of Congress, and during his address, the prime minister noted that our two countries share democratic values and ideals, and those principles have created the foundation upon which we have built our strong and growing relationship. They're also why we continue to make progress as security partners over the last several years. 

The defense relationship between the United States and Greece has never been stronger. The updated U.S.-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement reflects our nations' unshakeable commitment to shared peace and security, and it has enabled the expansion of U.S. Forces in Greece to support United States and NATO's objectives for strategic access in the region.

We especially thank Greece for hosting the U.S. Naval Support Activity at Souda Bay, which is a cornerstone of our defense relationship. I'd also like to highlight the priority access that your government granted our forces at the Port of Alexandropoulos, and that access allows us to continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine and to counter malign actors and exercise and operate in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea region.

So, Mr. Minister, thank you again for making the trip. We are delighted to have you. I look forward to a great discussion today on our continued collaboration as we work for peace and security.

GREEK MINISTER OF DEFENSE NIKOLAOS PANAGIOTOPOULOS: Mr. Secretary, dear Lloyd, it's a great pleasure to meet with you here today in Washington. A true honor to the visit the Pentagon. So, first allow me to reaffirm the importance of a strong and profound and ever-growing strategic defense partnership between the United States and Greece, a partnership that has reached an all-time high in recent years following the two updates of a mutual defense corporation agreement in 2019 and last year. The excellent level of a Greek-U.S. defense cooperation which blended with joint training and joint exercises that increase our interoperability as well as the expanded presence of U.S. military forces in new locations and strategic points on Greek territory, as you mentioned, testifies our common will and desire to increase our readiness in order to meet common threats and challenges and protect our interests in our wider region that is a region of great geopolitical significance.

Among these locations, Souda Bay is well known for its outstanding strategic importance projecting to the Southeastern Mediterranean region as well as Alexandropoulos, as you mentioned, in proximity to the Black Sea that has proven crucial in our efforts to provide support in Ukraine.

Mr. Secretary, allow me to recognize your instrumental role and your leadership regarding the efforts by a large number of countries to provide support to Ukraine. The action of Greece to the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine was, indeed, swift and decisive. We offered all the assistance we could afford to Ukraine, a country that is under attack in violation of every rule of international law. We implemented all sanctions imposed on the aggressor despite their cost to us, we're willing to contemplate any other action, any other type of assistance that will help (inaudible).

Greece is a key hub for supporting and protecting -- projecting ally presence in a region facing various forms of revisionism. Revisionism whether it takes the form of questioning basic rules governing the international legal order or whether it’s expressed as the pursuit of changing internationally recognized borders or both, as is often the case, constitutes a major threat to the interests of Greece, the interests of the United States, and the North Atlantic Alliance in general. Thereby, revisionism of any form is against stability. Revisionism must not prevail.

We have to be aware, principled, and determined to avoid negative precedence and present a common position against any legal and stabilizing behavior of such type. Basic common goal must be the protection of international legal order based primarily on international law but also good neighborly relations.

Dear Lloyd, in concluding, I'm pleased that our meeting today will provide us with the opportunity to discuss ways to further deepen and expand our defense partnership that is already flourishing. A new milestone of this strategic partnership is without doubt the procurement by Greece of the state of the art F-35 fighter, a major step for our deterrence and even closer interaction, coordination and interoperability between Armed Forces of Greece and the United States.

As I said, a lot has been done but with respect to further developing our strategic cooperation, the sky is the limit and that is, indeed, a very appropriate comment given the procurement of the next fifth generation main strike fighter of NATO.

Thank you for the hospitality.

SEC. AUSTIN: Mr. Minister, it is an absolute delight to have you, and I look forward to a great conversation. 

MIN. PANAGIOTOPOULOS: Thank you, sir.

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, everybody.