Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos on Thursday signaled Greece’s willingness to launch talks for the acquisition of two new navy frigates in talks with his French counterpart Florence Parly in Paris.
The ministers signed a statement of intent for the acquisition by the Hellenic Navy of two Belharra-class frigates, Panagiotopoulos said, adding that there was “a long way to go” before an agreement is reached on the required “technical aspects” of the vessels.
Another point of discussion was some pending issues relating to the maintenance of French Mirage fighter jets, he said.
The two ministers also discussed Turkey’s offensive in Syria and developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey continues its illegal prospecting for hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In comments to reporters after his meeting with Parly, Panagiotopoulos referred to French and Italian vessels in the area, saying that they served to underline the “presence of the European Union” and its objections to Turkey’s continuing transgressions in Cyprus’ waters.
Those comments were widely reproduced in a misleading way, however, particularly in Cypriot media, with many reports appearing to suggest that Panagiotopoulos had requested the presense of foreign vessels in the area.
The misrepresentation of the minister’s comments was widely seen as evidence of the rising tensions in the area over Turkey’s increasing transgressions.
However, developments in the area in recent days also appear to have created some confusion.
For instance, Nicosia requested a joint exercise in Cyprus’ EEZ with French and Italian forces, an overture that was rejected by both Rome and Paris.
Also Panagiotopoulos’ discussions did reportedly touch on the prospects for a naval cooperation between Greece and France but that was a response to the aid requested by the French for patrols in the Horn of Africa.