Athens announced on Saturday that it wanted to buy 18 Rafale from France. This order comes amid tensions with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, where Athens has shown support from Paris.
“It is time to strengthen our armed forces,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a speech in Thessaloniki on Saturday. This declaration marks a new stage in the closure between Turkey and Greece, with Paris in the front row.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced a “significant” arms purchase program, including 18 French Rafale fighter jets. In addition to this French flagship, Greece will acquire four frigates and four naval helicopters, recruit an additional 15,000 troops and further fund its defense industry. The program also envisages the renovation of four frigates and the acquisition of anti-tank weapons, torpedoes and missiles.
“This is an important program that will form a national shield,” the prime minister said. He assured that this program would enable the creation of thousands of jobs. More information on the cost of the program and the origin of the armament is expected to be announced at a press conference on Sunday.
“Strengthen the link between the Greek and French armed forces”
The French Minister of the Army, Florence Parly, welcomed in a press release Greece’s choice to acquire 18 Rafale: “This election (…) strengthens the link between the Greek and French armed forces and will allow” intensify their operational and strategic cooperation “.
“France continues its activities in favor of a stronger, more autonomous and united defense Europe in line with its strategic directions,” President Emmanuel Macron added in the announcement.
For his part, the CEO of Dassault Aviation, Eric Trappier, said he was very pleased with “this announcement which reinforces the exceptional relationship we have had with Greece for almost half a century”.
Military maneuvers in the Mediterranean
This order comes when Turkey and Greece, both members of NATO, disintegrate over hydrocarbon deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, in an area that Athens considers to be under its sovereignty.
On Saturday, Kyriakos Mitostakis accused Turkey of “threatening” Europe’s eastern borders and “endangering” regional security. “We need a dialogue, but not when it takes place with the gun to the temple,” he added in a column published by three European dailies.
Tensions between the two countries escalated when, on August 10, Turkey sent a seismic survey vessel accompanied by warships to waters required by Greece, prompting Athens to launch naval maneuvers, with special support from France.
“Mr Macron, you’re not done with me”
France has clearly shown its support for Greece by deploying warships and fighter jets in the region, an initiative strongly condemned by the Turkish president.
“Mr Macron, you have not stopped having problems with me,” said the Turkish president, attacking for the first time directly and by name his counterpart. “Do not seek quarrels with the Turkish people, do not seek quarrels with Turkey,” Turkish President Recep Erdogan continued on Saturday in a televised speech in Istanbul.
Mr Erdogan also accused him of “lack of historical knowledge” and said France “could not teach Turkey a lesson in humanity” because of its colonial past in Algeria and its role in the genocide. 1994 in Rwanda.
The French president, for his part, considered the Turkish government “today to have unacceptable behavior” and had to “clarify its intentions”. Emmanuel Macron and his six southern EU counterparts also called on Turkey on Thursday to end its policy of “confrontation” in the eastern Mediterranean and threatened it with European sanctions.