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Tsipras Says Greek-US deal on Fighter Jets will Cost $1,27 Bln

October 28, 2017

ATHENS – Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought on Friday to dispel doubts over a discussed upgrade of a significant number of Greece’s fighter jets through an agreement with U.S. companies, saying the move is necessary to maintain the country’s ability to defend itself.

“The danger is that if we do not act now, we may get to the point within the next five years, due to the withdrawal of most fighter aircraft, where our Air Force has lost a very significant part of its deterrent power,” he told parliament, responding to a question raised by Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis over the upgrade and possible so-called “compensation measures”.

Theodorakis had asked the prime minister to clarify when the Greece-U.S. deal will be submitted for approval to parliament, what its cost will be, the way it will be implemented and what the country is expected to get from this cooperation.

Concerning the total cost of the upgrade, Tsipras said discussions are still underway but Greece can afford to spend up to 1.1 billion euros ($1,27B).

“In our case, the amount Greece can allocate in order to include the armaments expenditure within the budgeted expenditure -and we have made it clear in our negotiations – our maximum is 1.1 billion euros,” he explained, adding this will be divided in payments of 100 million euros per year spread over a decade.

He said the cost of this purchase will be included in the defence ministry’s existing budgeted expenses, which have also been submitted in the medium-term program in parliament. “Therefore, we’re not talking about an extra burden or extra expenses” he said.

Tsipras said the Armed Forces have explained in the past that due to the technological advancements in aircraft equipment it may be “uncertain or even impossible” to upgrade fighter jets in the future and will also be much more expensive and rejected accusations of possible corruption, saying the government will not include in any deal any compensation measures which have been used in the past to “facilitate bribes, set up money-laundering mechanisms and establish crony capitalism”.

He accused “part of the media” of spreading “fake news” saying there is no extra deal concerning Greece’s NATO base in Souda Bay.

Tsipras defended his official visit to the U.S. earlier in October, saying his political leanings were not the issue during talks with U.S. President Donald Trump.

“I didn’t go to the United States to represent a political party but as the Greek prime minister, carrying the positions and values of my political party. Everyone knew who I was. I am the one who went to Havana a year ago to deliver a eulogy for Fidel Castro. Those who invited me didn’t forget that. But I went there as the Greek prime minister to defend the country’s interests. We’ll let the Greek people decide whether there were any tangible results.”

He said the most important change is that when Trump was first elected he appeared to believe that the issue of Greece’s debt was a European affair and maintained the view “let [Wolfgang] Schaeuble solve it, it’s his problem”, whereas now he will play a role in resolving the issue.

“Today, not only he [Trump] insists on the steadfast position of the American administration which we had come to know during the tenure of president [Barack] Obama, but he assures us that he will play a role. He is interested on the issue. Greece is a stable, reliable ally and [Greek debt] is not a European issue. This is very important,” he said.

Switching to the current state of the economy, he said he expects a growth rate with “the number 2 in front” and close to three percent in 2018.

“For the first time there is, not only the possibility of exiting [the crisis] but also the possibility of strengthening the country’s role on an international level,” he said.

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