The fast-tracking of procedures to implement a 1-billion-euro defense program was agreed on Monday during a meeting of the Parliament’s Arms Committee. The decision was taken after a confidential briefing of the committee regarding the immediate needs of the country’s land, naval and air forces.
The discussions were attended by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, the chief of Hellenic Armed Forces General Staff (GEETHA), Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, and the heads of the General Army Command (GES), the Air Force General Staff (GEA) and the Hellenic Navy (GEN).
Among the significant priorities for Greece’s air force is the upgrade by the US of 85 of its F-16 fighter jets. The government is scrambling to finalize the deal by April 30 so the cost will not exceed the 1.1-billion-euro ceiling set by the government. Another top priority for the air force is the the maintenance of its fleet of French-made Mirage-200s jets. The navy’s priorities include, among others, the immediate upgrade of its fleet of MEKO frigates.
The move to upgrade the country’s armed forces comes amid renewed tension with Turkey which flared at the weekend after leading politicians in the neighboring country again challenged Greece’s sovereignty in the Aegean, where air space violations have spiked in recent months.
Meanwhile, deteriorating Greek-Turkish relations and the hardening of Athens’s stance is expected to dominate Tuesday’s cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
The PM’s office on Sunday described Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “sultan” who “makes promises on behalf of the country’s justice system” as opposed to Greece which has a prime minister who respects the rule of law.
In remarks earlier on Sunday, Erdogan had linked the fate of the two Greek soldiers who are being held in Turkey with that of the eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece in 2016 after the coup attempt and which Ankara wants extradited. He also slammed Tsipras for allegedly going back on his promise to extradite the servicemen.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on Monday that Turkey is using the two soldiers, who crossed the border early last month during a routine patrol, for political reasons. He said that the fact they have been held without charge for more than a month is “is beginning to go beyond the limits.”