France to put in frigate offers as Greece beefs up military
France will put in proposals to supply new frigates to Greece, which is building up its armed forces during a period of tension with its neighbor and NATO partner, the French defense minister said on Monday.
Florence Parly was speaking at a joint news conference with her Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos in Athens after the two finalized a 2.5 billion euros ($3 billion) agreement for the purchase of 18 Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets by Greece.
"Greece is becoming the first European country to acquire this type of fighter jet," Parly told reporters. "France will soon offer to Greece proposals to renew its fleet of frigates."
The deal for six new and 12 used Rafale jets was announced hours after a new round of talks between Greece and Turkey over disputed territorial waters ended in Istanbul.
The first deliveries of the advanced French warplanes are expected in July amid a flurry of procurement moves by the conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after years of shrunken budgets during the financial crisis.
Greece, which last year accused Turkey of "imperial fantasies" in the region, also wants to buy four new frigates, helicopters and drones, upgrade its existing fleet of F-16 jets and purchase torpedoes and missiles to boost its armed forces.
It has promised to recruit 15,000 military personnel over the next four years, revamp its defense industry and this month approved a $1.68 billion flight training deal with Israel, the largest ever procurement deal between the two countries.
Greek and Turkey, longstanding rivals that are also both members of the NATO alliance, came close to war last year after two naval vessels collided in the eastern Mediterranean. While tensions have eased since, suspicions on both sides remain high.
On Monday, exploratory talks aimed at laying the groundwork for possible future negotiations to resolve territorial differences ended after a few hours when they resumed in Istanbul following a five-year hiatus.
Another meeting is expected in Athens, a Greek government official said, without giving a date.