ATHENS, Feb 24 — Greece will sign a wide-ranging defence deal with France in coming months, the two countries’ defence ministers said today, months after a similar agreement between Athens and Washington.
“We have decided to reinforce bilateral defence and security cooperation in a very significant manner,” French Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters after talks with her Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos in Athens.
The agreement to be signed by June will include joint naval and land exercises, defence industry cooperation and an “increased” French naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, Panagiotopoulos said.
Parly said French Rafale fighters will take part in Greece’s annual air force exercise, code-named Iniochos, in May.
Greece is keen to enlist the support of EU and Nato partners amid rising tension with neighbouring Turkey, fuelled by energy exploration rivalry and migration concerns.
Paris has publicly expressed exasperation with Ankara over its energy exploration off Cyprus, and the launch of a military operation in Syria without international consent.
Athens was incensed in November when Turkey signed a maritime and military cooperation memorandum with the UN-recognised Libyan government in Tripoli, carving out energy spheres of influence in the Mediterranean.
In January, Greece’s parliament approved an updated defence agreement with the US allowing the use of Greek military facilities by US forces.
And despite its financial shortcomings after a decade-long debt crisis, the new conservative government in Athens has stated its intent to purchase US and French weaponry.
Greece is in talks to acquire a pair of French-made [email protected] frigates and organise technical support for its Mirage 2000 planes and NH90 helicopters.
A Greek frigate has escorted a French strike group headed by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is on a three-week mission in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greece has also arranged to send a batch of US-made Patriot defensive missiles to Saudi Arabia to guard energy facilities. — AFP