NEWS

Confusion continues over French frigates

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Diplomacy, Defense

Talks between Athens and Paris with respect to Greece leasing two FREMM-type frigates have been fraught with confusion after France repudiated Alternate Defense Minister Fotis Kouvelis’s claim last week that an agreement had already been struck.

Seeking to clarify Kouvelis’s remarks, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on Tuesday that there is currently no deal with France to lease the frigates for a period of five years, but that the government is “exploring different [defense] projects.”

“What Mr Kouvelis and the government are saying is that we are exploring a number of projects. Beyond that, if there is any agreement on any such matter, there will be an official briefing and discussion in all the relevant institutions of government, and Parliament,” he told Alpha radio.

According to French weekly La Tribune on Saturday, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said no deal has been reached.

Sources in Greece said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and French President Emanuel Macron had discussed a series of scenarios regarding naval cooperation between the two countries in their latest phone conversation. Among the issues explored was the leasing of the two frigates and the purchase after five years of French Belh@rra vessels. The different scenarios were also reportedly submitted in writing by Greece to France during Macron’s visit to Athens last autumn.

Moreover, in a meeting last Thursday with Kouvelis, French Ambassador to Greece Christophe Chantepy reportedly asked for an in-depth analysis of Athens’s proposals. However, the same sources said that talks between the two countries are currently at an early stage.

The issue was taken up by New Democracy, which called the government’s handling “amateurish.”

“Could the government, which apparently treats even the country’s defense with incredible amateurism, inform its citizens what exactly has been agreed – if it has been agreed – with France?” the party said in a press release.

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