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Turkey Rips Greece's Arms, Mutual Defense Deal with France

Αssociated Press

From the left, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greek Defence Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Defense Minister Florence Parly and French President Emmanuel Macron take part in the signing ceremony of a new defence deal at The Elysee Palace Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (Ludovic Marin, Pool Photo via AP)

Turkey – which has bought Russian missile defense systems that undermine the security of NATO – said it's Greece threatening the defense alliance with its deal to buy warships from France and have a mutual defense pact with that country.

The tension has flared again days before a 63d round of low-level exploratory talks between Greek and Turkish officials in Ankara, the last round dissolving into a chit-chat session and joining the first 61 in failure to make real progress.

Greece signed a 2.9-billion euro ($3.36 billion) agreement with France to buy three frigate warships and an option on a fourth and earlier did a 2.9-billion euro ($3.5 billion) deal to buy 18 French-made Rafale fighter jets, 12 used and six new and then upped it to 24 jets.

Tellingly too, Greece and France agreed to come to each other's aid if attacked by another country, without saying it's Turkey, which has been provoking Greece with air and sea violations from fighter jets and warships.

That has included Turkish warships harassing the Maltese-flagged Nautical Geo energy research ship that's licensed by Greece to do energy pipeline exploratory work off Crete, before it was scared off in an area where Turkey plans to drill for oil and gas.

The French-Greek agreement “promotes European defense and is compatible with our NATO commitments, something recognized by the United States,” Greek Foreigh Minister Dendias told reporters following a meeting with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, said Kathimerini.

“Greece always operates on the basis of its commitments, in contrast with some other allies who undermine NATO’s cohesion,” Dendias said, a clear reference to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s also said on a US TV station that he may authorize purchase of another from Russia, openly baiting President Joe Biden's administration and daring sanctions.

Dendias countered that, “Our agreement with France is a purely defensive agreement. It is not aimed at anyone,” adding that Greece signed a similar agreement last year with the United Arab Emirates. “Turkish objections are totally unacceptable,” he said.

That came after Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic, in a written statement, denounced what he called “Greece’s maximalist maritime jurisdiction and air space claims.”

He said the French-Greek deal as a bilateral military alliance formed against fellow NATO member Turkey “in a way that harms the NATO alliance,” showing that it's Turkey that's the target of the deal that Greece and France wouldn't admit.

“Greece’s policy of armament, isolating and alienating Turkey is a problematic policy which will cause harm to itself and the European Union, and threaten regional peace and stability,” Bilgic said.

He didn't explain why Turkish provocations and buying a missile defense system from an ideological enemy of NATO – which has refused to intervene in any case involving Greece and Turkey – did't also harm the alliance.

Germany, home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and a big arms supplier to Turkey, said it didn't think the deal was aimed at a NATO member although Turkey said it was, which Germany didn't want to admit.