NEWS

Greek officials’ busy travel schedule

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A busy diplomatic schedule for top ministers includes several meetings with French and US officials, but also renewed efforts to engage in regions in which Greece had shown little interest so far.

Defense collaboration with France and the US has become even closer, with Greece ordering, or planning to order, advanced defense systems from both to achieve a measure of parity with nominal ally Turkey.

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos will visit the seaside town of Lorient in western France to attend the first official ceremony involving the start of the construction of the first of three advanced technology FDIs (defense and intervention frigates) which are expected to cost 3 billion, with an option for a fourth. The price includes the weapons systems and vessel support for three years. The first two frigates will be delivered to the Hellenic Navy in 2025 and the third in 2026.

Earlier, Dendias will be in nearby Brest, attending the informal EU foreign ministers’ meeting, the first under France’s six-month stint at the European Council’s rotating presidency.

Panagiotopoulos will then travel to the US to meet his counterpart, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The talks come after the US Congress vote on the defense budget, which included an amendment explicitly referring to providing more weapons to Greece. The latter is strongly interested in the F-35 stealth multirole combat aircraft, but still needs to secure the funds for the advanced aircraft, from which Turkey has been excluded.

Panagiotopoulos hinted Monday at Mitsotakis’ own trip to Washington in February, but the new pandemic wave is a complicating factor.

If pandemic conditions allow, Dendias will visit Nigeria and Angola in January. This is part of the government’s strategy to engage diplomatically as widely as possible but also aims at counteracting Turkey’s active “UAV diplomacy” using the sale of unmanned aircraft to extend its reach.