France, Greece sign defence deal; Athens to buy 3 warships
France and Greece on Tuesday announced a multibillion-euro defense deal, including Athens' decision to buy three French warships as part of a strategy to boost its defence capacities in the Eastern Mediterranean amid recurring tensions with longtime foe Turkey.
President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a defence and security strategic partnership in a joint news conference in Paris.
"This partnership expresses our will to increase and intensify our cooperation in the defence and security sector based on our mutual interests," Macron said. It will "help protect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity of both states."
Greece will purchase three French frigates to be built by defence contractor Naval Group in Lorient, in western France. The deal includes an option for the acquisition of a fourth frigate.
Mitsotakis said it comes "out of national motivation to shield our country," but also has "a European motive as it strengthens our common defence industry."
"Greece and France are today taking a bold first step towards European strategic autonomy," he added, saying it's paving the way towards "a Europe that ... will be able to defend (its interests) in the wider region, in the eastern Mediterranean, in the Middle East."
The announcement comes at a key time for France after the loss this month of a US$66 billion deal to sell diesel-electric submarines to Australia, which instead chose to acquire nuclear-powered submarines provided by the U.S. The three-way strategic defence alliance announced by Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. came as a shock to French officials.
Greece has already bought 18 French Rafale fighter jets and plans to purchase another six under a program to modernize its armed forces.
Macron and Mitsotakis didn't immediately disclose further details of the deal. A top French official said the deal was worth "several billion" euros.
Tensions between Greece and historic regional rival Turkey have increased in recent years over gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean and waters between the two countries.
Both countries have been at loggerheads for decades over a long series of issues, including territorial rights in the Aegean Sea, maritime and aviation boundaries, and minority rights.
Derek Gatopoulos contributed to this story from Athens, Greece