ATHENS – After making a $2.79 billion deal to buy 12 used and six new French-made Rafale fighter jets as tension has soared with Turkey, Greece’s New Democracy government now wants to buy France’s Belharra frigate warships.
Media reports noted by Turkey’s pro-government The Daily Sabah newspaper said that Greece is bolstering its naval fleet – as Turkey has been doing – their navies shadowing each other in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.
Greece moved to upgrade its arsenal after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly sent an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, on hold after he pulled them to avoid European Union sanctions.
But he said he will persist with his plans to hunt for oil and gas in the areas around Greek islands, including Crete – where the US Navy has a base on Souda Bay – although the two sides are gingerly engaging in exploratory talks.
Greece maintains close ties with France and the acquisition of French frigates is the largest weapons program ever undertaken by its armed forces. According to media reports, the total cost amounts to 5 billion euros ($6.05 billion) the paper said.
The purchase, reports said, would be for four multifunctional frigates along with their equipment, renovating older warships and having two of the new ships built at Greek shipyards.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly announced the deal on Twitter and said, “France has signed a letter of intent with Greece on its purchase of two defense and intervention frigates.”
Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos earlier met Parly in Athens and told reporters that, there was still “a long way to go” before agreeing on the final configuration of the frigates for Greece, suggesting that they are unlikely to be identical to those that the French Naval Group is also building for the French fleet.