French press points to confusion between Athens and France over frigates
Reports in the French press suggested on Tuesday there is a “misunderstanding” between Greece and France over Athens’ claims that Paris has agreed to lease two Fremm-type frigates to the country for a period of five years, amid growing tensions with Turkey.
Alternate Defense Minister, Fotis Kouvelis, confirmed last Friday on SKAI TV channel that France “has made two frigates available to us in a leasing agreement,” following talks between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and French President Emmanuel Macron.
In an article published on Saturday, French weekly La Tribune quoted French Defence Minister Florence Parly, who said “it is not valid” that any deal has been reached, however “we are at the disposal of our Greek friends to continue working even more closely.”
It said the French government had not committed to a leasing deal considering that the French Navy does not have the ability to lend two frigates to Greece.
The paper also cited a person “with knowledge on the file,” who said this issue could simply be a “manipulation” from Greece to accelerate the acquisition of the FTI frigates – the Belharra.
French website Mer at Marine described the issue as a “strange game of diplomatic ping-pong” between Greece and France, in an article published on Monday.
The website quoted an unnamed French official who said that such a deal is “out of the question” and that “these statements are totally unfounded.”
The French Navy cannot lend frigates to other countries as its FREMM fleet is “barely sufficient” to cover its current operational needs, it said.
Mer at Marine attributes the Greek declarations to the renewed tensions with Turkey. “The historically difficult relations between the two countries are tense again and the Hellenic Armed Forces are seeing their Turkish rivals rise in power, especially in the naval field,” the website says.
“It could be that the Greek Navy would therefore like to have new units as soon as possible,” it adds.