Turkish defense minister says he had 'positive' meeting with Greek counterpart
Turkey’s defense minister said he had a "positive" meeting with his Greek counterpart in Brussels, on the sidelines of a gathering of their NATO colleagues, News.Az reports citing Anadolu Agency.
"We had a positive and constructive meeting with the Greek defense minister (Nikos Panagiotopoulos)," Hulusi Akar told reporters late Friday.
"We expect to see the positive results of this meeting in the coming days."
He reiterated that provocative actions and rhetoric that ramp up tensions between the two nations "would not be beneficial."
On Greece's defense pact with France reached earlier this month, Akar said that since all three countries are members of NATO, such alliances threaten to “harm both NATO and bilateral relations and undermine trust."
In recent years Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads on such issues as a fair demarcation of maritime boundaries and energy resources and Athens’ militarization of Aegean islands in violation of longstanding treaties.
On Turkey's project to upgrade its F-16 jet fleet, Akar said that technical work has been started for both the supply of Block 70 Viper F-16s from the US and the modernization of some jets it already owns.
"The strengthening of Turkey and the Turkish Armed Forces also means the strengthening of NATO defense," he argued.
Saying that Turkey is on the alert for PKK/YPG terrorist attacks in northern Syria, near its southern border, Akar added that Turkey's presence in the area’s Idlib region is "important.”
"Our presence there prevents massacres by the (Assad) regime," he said. "Preventing this also stops a wave of migration and radicalization."
The Idlib de-escalation zone was forged under an agreement between Turkey and Russia. The area has been the subject of multiple cease-fire understandings, which have frequently been violated by the Assad regime and its allies.
Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of at least 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is PKK's Syrian branch.
Akar also said that during their meeting, the NATO defense chiefs had discussed issues of deterrence, regional and global developments – especially Afghanistan – and the challenges of climate change.