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Politics

Mitsotakis Will Meet Macron in Corsica, French Weapons Buy On Table

September 7, 2020

ATHENS — Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is set to go to the island of Corsica Sept. 10 to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and discuss upgrading Greece's defense system as Turkey keeps up provocations in the East Mediterranean.

France has aligned itself with Greece and Macron has urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cool down his volatile rhetoric to avoid a conflict between the NATO allies that could drag in France and others in the region.

Mitsotakis and Macron will be finalizing the details of an agreement for the acquisition by Greece of 4.5-generation, Dassault-built Rafale jets and other material said Kathimerini, citing sources that weren't named.

Mitsotakis earlier met with Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, along with National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) chief Konstantinos Floros and the head of the Navy, Stylianos Petrakis, to talk about defense upgrades.

Besides the jets, Greece also wants to buy more warships, including French frigates and is trying to work out the budget in the defense sector that was hammered during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis.

With the EU planning a critical meeting with Turkey Sept. 24-25 and threatening sanctions unless Greece and Turkey work out their differences over sea rights around Greek islands where Turkey wants to drill for oil and gas, France said the stretch leading up is the best chance to avoid a conflict for now.

“It’s up to the Turks to show that this matter … can be discussed,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Inter radio, Agence-France Presse (AFP) reported on Sept. 6.

“If so, we can create a virtuous circle for all the problems on the table,” he said.

He said EU leaders have already discussed “the range of reprisals we could take with regards to Turkey” if there is no pullback of a Turkish energy research vessel and warships near the Greek island of Kastellorizo, near Turkey's coast.'

An “entire series of measures” is on the table, he stressed, without saying what they are. “We are not short of options, and he knows that,” Le Drian said in reference to Erdogan, AFP said.

Mitsotakis and Michel discuss tension in Eastern Mediterranean, Europe's response

The tense situation in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean due to Turkey's provocative actions and Europe's response to them dominated a phone call between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' and European Council President Charles Michel on Monday.

The call was made ahead of Michel's visit to Athens on September 15 and the European Council session.

On his part, Michel reiterated EU's complete solidarity with Greece and Cyprus.

Petsas: Unity is a national duty

Greece, as all its citizens understand, is facing two major external challenges, Petsas said at the press briefing on Monday, referring the pandemic and the Turkish provocativeness.

"It is a national duty to be united and not have divisive arguments. Courage and not pettiness, responsibility and not populism, truth not lies," he said, adding that Turkey is directing threats of war at Greece almost every day, and that Athens is responding with political, diplomatic and operational readiness and "is "determined to do whatever necessary to protect our sovereign rights".

He repeated that Greece's message is clear and, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said many times, the provocations must stop before talks can begin. "Once the threats stop, the exploratory talks will begin in order to find a solution to the only pending issue [between Greece and Turkey], which is the delimitation of our maritime zones or a joing agreement to refer the issue to the The Hague," he said.

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