ATHENS – Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and his French counterpart Florence Parly ascertained their total agreement on how to address the security challenges in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean during their meeting in Athens on Monday.
The two ministers sternly condemned Turkey’s illegal actions in the region.
Panagiotopoulos underlined that the abolition of the Turkey-Libya memorandum and a government of national unity is a prerequisite for reaching a political solution in Libya.
Moreover, the two ministers noted that bilateral military collaboration is at an excellent level and decided to conduct a series of military training exercises and other actions on an annual basis. They also discussed the prospects of a mutually beneficial collaboration in the industrial sector, research and innovation.
Panagiotopoulos noted that Parly’s visit indicates the enduringly excellent relations of cooperation and the bonds of friendship between the two countries on both a bilateral level and within regional and international organisations.
Additionally, they discussed the main axes for the implementation of a decision by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron for the establishment, until the end of June 2020, of a new strategic partnership in security between France and Greece. “These will include, among others, regular political deliberations at a ministerial level, the increased presence of the French Navy in the region, joint military exercises and greater mutually beneficial industrial collaboration,” Panagiotopoulos said.
The minister said that his discussion with Parly also covered the prospects for the development of European defence initiatives and the two countries’ participation in these, with emphasis on PESCO, as well as the European Intervention Initiative, of which Greece wants to become an active member.
On her part, Parly pointed out that the EU and France condemned the Turkey-Libya memorandum: “We clearly condemned the violation of the commitments undertaken by Turkey at the Berlin Conference”.
She reiterated France’s deep commitment to the respect of international rules and free navigation, noting the presence of her country’s navy in the region acts as a deterrent against unilateral initiatives, such as those of Turkey in maritime zones that have not been recognised as Turkish. Furthermore she said that France is holding talks with Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Egypt on the enhancement of the deterrent effect of the French Navy in the region.
Parly announced a “more intensive” French Navy presence in the region and asked her Greek counterpart to examine a significant level of Greek armed forces support on the ground in Africa for addressing the terror threat and the elimination of traffickers before they reach the Mediterranean shores.
She also announced the participation of French RAFALE aircraft in the multinational military exercise Iniohos 2020 organised by the Greek airforce in May.
Parly said that the negotiations for upgrading the NH-90 helicopters will conclude soon and welcomed the agreement for the support of the Greek Air Force’s MIRAGE-2000 aircraft, expressing hope that the ongoing deliberations for the acquisition of two Belhara frigates will have a successful conclusion.
Replying to questions, the Greek defence minister said that upgrading the operational readiness and deterrent capacity of the Greek Armed Forces was the only option for guaranteeing conditions of security and stability in the wider region, which is facing security challenges that include Turkey’s destabilising and illegal actions.