21 May 2011

Q: What are the objectives of the military campaign that is underway since Friday night?

Ev. Venizelos: The operation’s objectives are none other than to implement the Security Council Resolution 1973. So, its goal is to protect the non-combatant population, to facilitate the deployment of the necessary humanitarian operations and to create the conditions that will allow Libyans to take, through democratic processes, crucial decisions about the future of their country, because the Security Council Resolution itself insists on the need to respect the integrity, national cohesion and national sovereignty of Libya.


Q: What is Greece’s contribution in the planned operations, in terms of facilities and military assets?

Ev. Venizelos: As we have repeatedly said, Greece does not participate in the present military operations that are taking place outside the framework of NATO. Of course Greece receives requests by friendly and allied countries to facilitate them through the use of Souda Bay, in Crete, or through Greek airfields, for example Araxos where aircraft from Belgium happened to be at for training purposes. Greece provides such facilitations of a supportive nature because it is obligated to do so, according to International Law, following the Resolution 1973 by the UN Security Council.

Q: If NATO does get involved, what will Greece’s contribution be?

Ev. Venizelos: Greece respects its obligations as an EU and NATO member-state and has declared its readiness to participate in both NATO operations ready to be carried out, as per the Security Council decision. The first concerns the implementation of an arms embargo and the second the implementation of a no-fly zone. For both operations, Greece has made its facilities available -the Souda Bay facility and the air fields of Aktion and Andravida-, a frigate (with its helicopter on board) that has been sailing in the area between the island of Crete and Libya for the past few days anyway, and one of its ERIEYE Early Warning Radar Systems that we have installed on an Embraer aircraft. The radar system is very important because the images it receives are transmitted to Larissa’s CAOC (Combined Air Operations Center). Moreover, we are very interested in the field of Search and Rescue because it is a matter related to the international obligations of the country; Greece is also ready to provide a Search and Rescue helicopter that can assume action under crisis and war conditions at any moment. So there is no participation of, or plans for the involvement of Greek fighting aircrafts.

Q: Has the Greek government taken any measures to protect its facilities, given their proximity to the Libyan coast and the threats by Qaddafi to retaliate in the Mediterranean Sea?

Ev. Venizelos: Obviously all the necessary precautions have been taken. Neither the air-defense systems, nor the other weapons systems or the aircraft that the Libyan regime possesses, can harm any Greek territory and the island of Crete more specifically. The distance is such, that full safety is ensured. And our frigate that patrols the area is equipped with full self-defense systems.

Q: The attack against Libya commenced in the «absence» of the two major Organizations Greece participates in -the EU and NATO- that determine the country’s defense and security policy. Is this gap somewhat perplexing?

Ev. Venizelos: I have often spoken about the political problem of the EU, which was not called upon to play a specific role in any case. Besides, the permanent UN Security Council member-states that are also EU member-states make decisions based on their own national priorities or their own international-political objectives. Indeed NATO has taken a step back, because it is obvious that the United States want the European powers to take the initiative and because there have been countries in Europe, such as France and Britain, who wanted, obviously, to take that initiative. Therefore, I believe that Greece has found a balance point: The country participates in the mainstream of western powers, especially the EU and NATO member-states, it takes very seriously its historic and amicable relations with the Arab world –including the Gulf countries- and it also takes under consideration all the problems that arise from its geographical proximity with Libya. Taking all those parameters into consideration we have formulated a well-planned and balanced position, one that protects Greece’s strategic interests.

Q: During the Paris Summit, the Greek Prime Minister said that now is the time for an effort to reach a new diplomatic and political solution. Is this window for diplomacy open?

Ev. Venizelos: There is always room for diplomatic initiatives and for political solutions. The aim is, after all, for an institutionalized peaceful political solution that will be based on the principles of Democracy and the rule of law as they are universally accepted. The UN Security Council Resolution itself aims towards diplomatic mediation and a political solution.

Relative link

Evangelos Venizelos: «Greece in not in danger of retaliations» (Ta Nea, 21/3/2011)

Tags: Interviews