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Politics

France Vows to Back Greece if Turkey Threatens Sovereignty, Seas

PARIS – France will abide by its mutual defense agreement and come to Greece’s aid in case of an attack, with worry rising about Turkish provocations, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said in Paris after meeting Greek defense chief Nikos Dendias.

Colonna, appointed after the recent national elections, said that France will follow closely developments and assured Greece of its commitment if there is a threat to sovereignty by any other country, said Kathimerini.

Talking to reporters after the two met, she noted the rising tension over rights to the Eastern Mediterreanean where Turkey is already drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus and plans to do the same around Greek islands.

Moving to bolster its arsenal in the face of constant Turkish provocations, Greece in January got first of six new French-made Rafale fighter jets in a ceremony that was attended by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The order was placed a year earlier for 18 jets but in September, 2021 another six were added to boost the Greek Air Force, whose pilots are in frequent mock dog fights with Turkish jets violating Greek airspace.

It comes at a cost of 3.3 billion euros ($3.37 billion) with Greece planning to buy three French Belharra frigates at a cost of 3-5 billion euros ($3.07-$5.11 billion) to put more warships in the seas where Turkey has employed its own.

Greece’s New Democracy government is also interested in buying five Gorwind Corvette ships from France as well as vessels from the United States defense contractor Lockheed.

In 2021, Greece’s annual defense budget reached 5.5 billion euros ($5.62 billion,) a dramatic 41 percent jump over 2020 when the lingering COVID-19 pandemic struck and drained state coffers otherwise.

Greece’s signing of the mutual defense agreement with France irritated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose hopes of buying US-made F-35 fighter jets was dashed after Turkey of a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

That could be used against Greece in a conflict and undermines the security of NATO, the defense alliance to which both countries belong but which has refused to intervene over Turkish provocations.

Greece has also agreed to send troops to the Sahel region in West Africa to assist France and the pact technically requires France to come to the defense of Greece in an attack, which Turkey mocked.

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