Ushering in a new era in bilateral ties, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron announced a new strategic partnership between the two countries on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after his talks in Paris with the Greek premier, Macron spoke of a “common vision” shared by the two countries, stressing that the new relationship is not aimed at a “third” country.
He did note however that “France supports Greece [and] Cyprus as regards respect for their sovereign rights, condemning, along with the [European Union], Turkish transgressions in the region.”
Macron added that France has clearly “condemned” the Turkey-Libya maritime border agreement, while noting that Ankara violated the commitments it made at the Berlin conference by continuing to send troops to the North African country in support of the Tripoli-based government.
“[This was] a blatant violation of everything that was discussed in Berlin,” he said.
For his part, Mitsotakis, who visited Paris for the second time in five months at Macron's invitation, said that “Greece and France are promoting a new framework of defense strategy.”
“At the bilateral level, the partnership will intensify further,” he said.
He opted for a milder tone than Macron when referring to Turkey.
“The only way to resolve disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean is international law,” Mitsotakis said.
“We are still talking with Turkey, we are building international alliances, we are strengthening our deterrent power. The one does not preclude the other. It would be unacceptable if we didn’t do all three at the same time,” he said in remarks after speaking to reporters.
According to sources, the framework of the new strategic relationship will be specified in future meetings, such as the visit of the French defense minister to Greece in late February.
On the issue of Greece buying new frigates from France, the same sources point out that technical contacts between the two defense ministries are continuing, on the basis of Mitsotakis’ commitment to transparency (which means that any procurement will be agreed between states).
Macron also pledged support to Greece regarding migration, while also mentioning the 400 people eligible for international protection and who will be welcomed by France from Greece.
He further referred to the dispatch to Greece of specialized staff of France's asylum service OFPRA and French police.
Paris, he said, would also assist Athens in returning migrants whose applications are rejected.
As for the new EU pact that is currently being negotiated, Macron advocated the creation of an “automatic solidarity” mechanism so that the burdens of migrant flow management are fairly distributed.
He also backed the establishment of common asylum rules, something which Athens supports too.
The meeting between the two leaders, which lasted for an hour and a half, also covered a wide range of issues, on most of which both sides were on the same page (the multi-annual financial framework, Brexit and climate change).
Before leaving Paris, Mitsotakis also had a meeting with Patrick Jean Pouyanne, the chairman and CEO of Total.
The French company is part of a consortium seeking hydrocarbons west and southwest of Crete, is also active in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone and is a strong player in Libya too.