No intention of arms race with Turkey

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) – The Greek prime minister said on Thursday that he did not intend to compete with Turkey in an arms race and hopes to resolve disputes with the neighboring country through dialogue, but that the Greece must defend its territory and its sovereignty.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ comments came on Thursday two days after Greece signed a defense deal with France worth around € 3 billion ($ 3.5 billion), including the purchase of three French frigates for the Greek navy.

“We cannot ignore the fact that we live in a very complicated neighborhood. It is a geographic reality that we cannot ignore, ”Mitsotakis said at a conference of the Democracy Forum in Athens.


“I have no intention of embarking on an arms race with Turkey, and I always extend the hand of friendship to Turkey. We have big differences on many issues, but there should be a way to resolve these differences through dialogue, ”the Prime Minister said. “At the same time, we will defend our territory, our territorial integrity, our sovereignty, our sovereign rights. And to do that, we need a strong deterrent.

The French frigates that Greece will buy are ships that “will bring the navy into a new digital era, and a ship that will give us a very strong deterrent capacity for next year, for the next decades,” he said. he declares. “And we have an obligation to make sure that we have the capacity to defend ourselves.”

Tensions between Greece and its historic regional rival Turkey, both NATO members, have grown in recent years over energy exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. The two neighbors have been at daggers drawn for decades on a long series of issues, including territorial rights in the Aegean Sea which lies between the two countries, maritime and air borders and minority rights.

The agreement that Greece has signed with France includes an agreement for mutual assistance in the event of an attack by a third country.

This clause “basically says that if one of the countries is attacked, if its territory is contested, its sovereignty is contested, then there is an obligation by the other party to help it,” Mitsotakis said. “And this is a strategic partnership which, in my opinion, goes beyond the mutual assistance clauses which are currently included in European treaties.”

The principle of collective defense is one of the fundamental principles of NATO, of which Greece and France are members. Article 5 of the Alliance Treaty states that an attack on a member country is considered an attack on all.

“Does Article 5 apply in the event of an attack by a NATO member?” I’m not sure NATO has ever been very clear on this issue, ”Mitsotakis said, when asked why Greece needed a further alliance deal. “My obligation is to defend my country and to form the necessary alliances beyond the security arrangements we already have.”

The deal, he said, was not in competition with NATO or any other alliance.

“We have a strategic partnership with the United States that continues to grow stronger. We are about to sign (…) a new five-year mutual defense and cooperation agreement with the United States, “he said, adding that” Greece, France and the United States United are members of NATO. So there is no real competition here. We are talking about complementary initiatives.

However, he argued that there might be situations in which Europe might consider in its best interests to be involved and in which the United States would not want to join.

“Do we need a separate alliance within NATO? I would say that Europe as a continent must align its economic power with its geopolitical ambitions. And yes, there may be missions of particular European interest in the Sahel, the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, where NATO may not want to be involved, ”Mitsotakis said.

“So I see these two initiatives as completely complementary, but also as a very clear statement from Europe, if we manage to get there, that we are ready and able to take initiatives even without NATO approval. . That would mean, to be very open, without the approval of the United States. “

Greece has already bought 18 French Rafale fighter jets and plans to buy six more as part of a program to modernize its armed forces.


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