Athens announced on Saturday that it wants to buy 18 Rafale from France. This announcement comes as a result of tensions with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, where Athens has the support of Paris.
“The time has come to strengthen our armed forces,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday in a speech in Thessaloniki. This declaration marks a new stage in the arm wrestling between Turkey and Greece, with Paris in the forefront.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced an “important” arms purchase program, including 18 French Rafale fighter planes. In addition to this French flagship, Greece will purchase four frigates and four helicopters from the navy, recruit 15,000 additional soldiers and further finance its defense industry. The program also includes the renovation of four frigates and the acquisition of anti-tank, torpedo and missile weapons.
“This is an important program that will form a national shield,” the prime minister said. He assured that this program is expected to create thousands of jobs. More details on the cost of the program and the origin of the armaments should be announced Sunday at a press conference.
“Strengthening the link between the Greek and French armed forces.”
The French Minister of Defence, Florence Parly, said in a press release the choice of Greece to acquire 18 Rafale: “This choice to strengthen the link between the Greek and French armed forces, will allow them to intensify their operational and strategic cooperation”.
“France is continuing its action in favor of a stronger, more autonomous and united Europe of defense, in accordance with the strategic orientations of President Emmanuel Macron,” the communiqué added.
For his part, Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said he was delighted “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 at a time when Turkey and Greece, both members of NATO, are having clashes over hydrocarbon deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, in an area that Athens considers to be under its sovereignty.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday accused Turkey of “threatening” Europe’s eastern borders and “endangering” regional security. “We need dialogue, but not when it takes place with a gun to your head,” he added, in an op-ed published by three European daily newspapers.
Tension between the two countries rose a notch when Turkey sent a seismic exploration vessel accompanied by warships to waters claimed by Greece on August 10, prompting Athens to launch naval maneuvers, notably with the support of France.
“Mr. Macron, you’re not done having trouble with me yet.”
France has clearly shown its support for Greece by deploying warships and fighter aircraft in the region, an initiative strongly denounced by the Turkish president.
“Mr. Macron, you’re not done getting into trouble with me,” the Turkish president said, attacking his counterpart directly and by name for the first time. “Don’t quarrel with the Turkish people, don’t quarrel with Turkey,” Turkish President Recep Erdogan continued Saturday in a televised speech in Istanbul.
Erdogan also accused him of “lack of historical knowledge” and said France “could not give a lesson in humanity” to Turkey because of its colonial past in Algeria and its role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The French president, for his part, said that the Turkish government was “behaving in an unacceptable manner today” and needed to “clarify its intentions”. Emmanuel Macron and his six southern EU counterparts on Thursday also urged Turkey to stop its policy of “confrontation” in the eastern Mediterranean and else Turkey will be sanctioned.