Greece and France to ‘reinforce’ bilateral defense cooperation agreement

Greece will sign a wide-ranging defense deal with France in coming months, the two countries’ defense ministers said Monday, months after a similar agreement with the United States.

“We have decided to reinforce bilateral defense and security cooperation in a very significant manner,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told reporters after talks with her Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos in Athens.

The agreement to be signed by June will include joint naval and land exercises, defense industry cooperation and an “increased” French naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, Panagiotopoulos said.

Parly said French Rafale fighters will take part in Greece’s annual air force Exercise Iniochos, in May.

Greece is keen to enlist the support of European Union and NATO partners amid rising tension with neighboring Turkey, fuelled by energy exploration rivalry and migration concerns.

Paris has publicly expressed exasperation with Ankara over its energy exploration off Cyprus, and the launch of a military operation in Syria without international consent.

The Greek government was incensed in November when Turkey signed a maritime and military cooperation memorandum with the U.N.-recognized Libyan government in Tripoli, carving out energy spheres of influence in the Mediterranean.

Patriot missile system fired in Greece
German soldiers fire the Patriot air defense missile system at the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) during Exercise Artemis Strike in Chania, Greece on November 7, 2017. Image: Officer Candidate Sebastian Apel, Air Defence Missile Group 24

In January, Greece’s parliament approved an updated defense agreement with the U.S. allowing the use of Greek military facilities by U.S. forces.

And despite its financial shortcomings after a decade-long debt crisis, the new conservative government in Athens has stated its intent to purchase U.S. and French weapon systems.

Greece is in talks to acquire two French-made Belh@rra frigates and organize technical support for its Mirage 2000 planes and NH90 helicopters.

A Greek frigate has escorted a French strike group headed by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is on a three-week mission in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece has also arranged to send a batch of U.S.-made Patriot air defense missile systems to Saudi Arabia to guard energy facilities.

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With reporting from AFP

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