ATHENS – Major opposition Coalition of The Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras told Greece’s military leaders he would not orchestrate any major changes in defense policies if he comes to power.
Tspiras, whose party is opening its lead in polls over the ruling New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, met with military leaders at the Defense Ministry.
“We assured the military chiefs that we have full trust in them, because the state will have continuity and the security of our country is top priority,” Tsipras said during the three-and-a-half hour briefing.
But he added a caveat that the country’s crushing economic crisis could mean that there would be changes to the defense budget without explaining why that was not contradictory to his promise to hold the line on defense as a priority.
He said the defense budget, which is among the highest in the world per capita, may have to be adjusted to meet Greece’s “difficult economic reality.”
He also held a 45-minute meeting with conservative Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who welcomed the SYRIZA initiative even though he would be ousted if SYRIZA wins the next elections.
In comments afterward, Tsipras also slammed Turkey’s growing assertiveness over Cyprus, describing Ankara’s planned gas exploration in waters where Nicosia has already licensed companies to drill as an “unacceptable violation of [the island’s] sovereign rights.” He didn’t say what he’d do about it.