Greece has signed deals to buy six additional Rafale fighter jets and three Belharra navy frigates from France as tensions continue to flare up with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean on Thursday.
The Rafale fighter jets will be sold to Greece by Dassault Aviation and the delivery will begin from the summer of 2024, bringing the Hellenic Air Force’s fleet to 24 Rafales, the French warplane maker said in a statement.
The orders were signed aboard the retired Greek battleship Averof by the defense ministers of the two countries.
“With this acquisition of frigates and fighter jets the firepower of Greece’s navy and air force will be strengthened,” Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said.
Last September Athens agreed to buy three frigates with an option for a fourth one for about 3 billion euros ($3.30 billion).
The accord, part of a broader strategic military and defense cooperation pact, came after an agreement to order 24 Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets.
Greek lawmakers in October ratified the defense agreement between Greece and France that will allow the two countries to come to each other’s aid in the event of an external threat.
NATO members Greece and Turkey remain at odds over maritime boundaries and mineral exploitation rights in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean. A Turkish oil and gas survey in 2020 resulted in a tense naval standoff between the two countries.
Panagiotopoulos said in February that the Greek military needs to modernize following repeated funding cuts during the country’s acute 2010-18 financial crisis.
“There is no armament program that is ‘slightly necessary’ or ‘somewhat necessary,’” Panagiotopoulos told lawmakers during a committee-level debate in parliament.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by European Union members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Both sides cite a range of treaties and international agreements from over the decades to support their conflicting territorial claims.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara favors resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations. Instead of opting to solve problems with Ankara through dialogue, Athens has, on several occasions, refused to sit at the negotiation table and opted to rally Brussels to take a tougher stance against Turkey.