Leaders clash over defense agreement before ratification

Leaders clash over defense agreement before ratification

The defense pact between France and Greece signed in Paris late September was ratified by Greece’s Parliament on Thursday.

The ratification was approved by 191 out of 300 MPs, from the ruling conservative New Democracy party, socialist KINAL and nationalist Greece Solution, and the body’s two independents, including one expelled earlier this week from New Democracy for his hard-right views.

The left-wing parties, main opposition SYRIZA, the Communists and MeRA25, voted against, each for different reasons.

The agreement provides for the acquisition by Greece of three advanced technology frigates, with an option for a fourth, and includes a provision for mutual assistance if the two countries faced hostile action within their territory.

Despite the fact that both main parties acknowledged the need for the acquisition of the frigates, Thursday’s debate turned, once again, into a heated confrontation between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his predecessor and current opposition leader Alexis Tsipras. The latter, objecting to some mutual assistance clauses included in the agreement, went so far as to invoke images of coffins with the remains of Greek soldiers arriving from a hypothetical joint mission in the Sahel, the African region where France, the former colonial power in the area, is conducting operations against the local branches of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

“Your populist statements about returning coffins draped with the Greek flag is the most despicable thing I have heard in this room since I became prime minister,” Mitsotakis told Tsipras. Earlier, the opposition leader had accused the government of “trading in bogus patriotism.”

Each of the two adversaries claimed that his own version of the country’s defense policy was the best and that his party better serves the national interest.

Mitsotakis said that the agreement and its provisions enhance the country’s deterrence capabilities, in addition to its long-standing invocation of international law to answer Turkey’s aggressive demands.

Mitsotakis addressed, and scoffed at, SYRIZA’s objection that the mutual defense provisions do not cover Greece’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, saying no such treaties exist internationally.

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