BY DAILY SABAH
ANKARA EU AFFAIRS OCT 20, 2021 2:23 PM GMT+3French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gesture prior to the signing ceremony of a new defense deal at The Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Sept. 28, 2021. (AFP Photo)
France is heightening tensions between Turkey and Greece, which disagree over a number of issues including maritime and drilling rights, in order to increase sales to the latter, a source said.
The source told Daily Sabah that while Greece aimed to give the message of solidarity and strength recently during the signing of a defense agreement with France, Paris aims to make up for its losses after its contract to supply submarines to Australia was torn up in favor of American-designed nuclear ones.
“France, which is furious due to losing the sale of submarines to Australia, has given weight to Greece, to which it had been trying to sell vessels and jets for a year despite Athens’ debts,” the source added.
The Greek parliament earlier this month ratified a defense deal struck with France for the purchase of three French-made Belharra frigates, an agreement criticized by Turkey.
Turkey, which has an uneasy history and relationship with its NATO neighbor Greece, has criticized the agreement as threatening “regional peace and stability.”
The defense deal with France includes a mutual assistance clause, which states that the two sides will come to each other’s aid “with all appropriate means at their disposal, and if necessary with the use of armed force if they jointly ascertain that an armed attack is taking place against the territory of one of the two.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament that the deal “shields” Greece in the troubled Mediterranean.
“In the event of an attack, our country will have the backing of the strongest army on our continent,” Mitsotakis said.
The three Belharra frigates are to be delivered starting from 2025, in a deal to be finalized by the end of this year to the tune of 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion).
In September 2020, Mitsotakis unveiled Greece’s most ambitious arms purchase program in decades after a dangerous standoff with Turkey over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the waters off their coasts.
In contrast to other EU and NATO allies, France strongly backed Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration last year when tensions were high, sending warships and fighter jets to the Eastern Mediterranean.
In September, Greece also announced that it was planning to buy another six Rafale fighter aircraft as tensions continue to flare with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The announcement of boosting military ties with France comes after Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated recently that secondhand French Rafale jets will not change the power balance in the region.
Speaking then on Athens’ purchase of French Rafale jets, Akar had said: “They have been engaging in an arms race. They buy jets, arms, equipment. It is not possible to change the power balance with a few secondhand jets.”
Turkey has frequently voiced that it expects its neighbor Greece to adopt peaceful political solutions rather than aggressive ones.
Turkey, the country with the longest coastline on the Eastern Mediterranean, has sent drillships with a military escort to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that it and the TRNC have rights in the region.
Furthermore, Euractiv reported on Monday that the French Defense Ministry said that the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) are not part of the Franco-Greek agreement.
“The exclusive economic zone is not considered to be part of the territory of a State, in particular by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (known as the Montego Bay Convention), to which France and Greece are parties,” the ministry told Euractiv in a written response.
It affirmed that the military agreement concerns only the “ territories.”