ATHENS – Defense Minister Panos Kammenos has irked the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA with his offer to NATO to build a new airbase on the island of Karpathos, near Turkey.
Kammenos is leader of the government’s coalition partner the Independent Greeks and has developed a reputation as a loose cannon setting policy outside his jurisdiction.
It wasn’t reported whether he even bothered to inform Prime Minister and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras about his proposition, made to US officials while on a visit to Washington, D.C. where he was snubbed by his American defense counterparts.
“Everyone has a right to express their opinion, often putting their own touch, but as SYRIZA’s representative in the ministry I want to be very clear that this is not a decision or a position of the current government,” Alternate Minister for Defense Costas Isichos said in an interview with Eleftheria newspaper in Larissa.
Kammenos had previously irked European and American leaders with his warning Greece would loose a flood of jihadists he said were among illegal immigrants unless international lenders gave more money without conditions.
The newspaper Kathimerini said that Kammenos has also raised the prospect of making available a base on Kastellorizo, near the Turkish border. There was no immediate response from Turkey, which had previously said he was driving a wedge between the two countries with his popping off.
In a question submitted to Parliament Monday, New Democracy MP Costas Tassoulas demanded information on the cost of Kammenos’s visit to Washington.
Denying media reports of overspending, the ministry has said that the visit cost 300 dollars per day. No one asked Tassoulas how much the previous ruling New Democracy party had spent in trips to the US or conducting talks with international lenders in Paris instead of Athens.
The Defense Ministry also said that Kammenos, who has no background for his position, will visit Israel on July 19 to 21 following an invitation by his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon.
The invitation was passed onto Kammenos by Israeli Ambassador to Athens Irit Ben-Abba during their meeting at the ministry.
Kammenos has in the past suggested that members of the Jewish community in Greece pay less tax than other citizens. The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece had described his comment as a “serious anti-Semitic act.”