Greece is to sign an agreement with Saudi Arabia for the deployment of a Greek Patriot air defense missile system “to protect critical energy infrastructure” in the kingdom, Athens has stated.
The agreement is expected to be signed during Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos’ visit to Riyadh on April 20.
Talks regarding the deployment started in October 2019 after the Yemeni strike on state-owned company Aramco in Saudi Arabia on September 14.
The Patriot is considered one of the best anti-missile systems in the world. Its radar can cover an area of up to 170 km, while it can engage targets in a range of up to 150 km.
In February 2021, Dendias said the two countries may be close to signing a Status of Forces Agreement that will allow Greek military personnel to be stationed in Saudi Arabia for as long as the Patriot battery remains in the kingdom.
He insisted that the Patriot is a defensive system, not an offensive one. “Just to be clear,” he added. “Greece does not project aggressive power anywhere.”
Dendias revealed that he had discussed the Patriot’s transport and the enhancement of bilateral defense ties with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in January 2020 when the latter visited Athens.
The transport was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the two men discussed ways to speed up the delivery on the margins of the Philia Forum in Athens earlier this month, Dendias said.
The Saudis will cover transportation and operation costs of the Patriot battery from Greece, and will also finance the upgrade of the Greek anti-aircraft systems to the PAC-3 version.
Greece’s agreement with Saudi Arabia will include the necessary Air Force personnel, at least 40 officers and non-commissioned officers, who will be transferred to the Arab country and will be in charge of the Patriot system.
Military ties between Greece, Saudi Arabia and UAE strengthen
With the transfer of the Greek Patriot system, Athens aspires to further forge bilateral relations with Riyadh as it has done similarly with the United Arab Emirates.
In March 2021, units from the Royal Saudi Air Force participated in the the Falcon Eye 1 drill maneuvers with their Greek counterparts on the island of Crete.
The drill started with a number of sorties from both Royal Saudi Air Force’s F-15C fighters and Hellenic Air Force’s F-16, Mirage 2000 and F-4 Phantom fighters.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, Greece’s arch rival, described the joint military exercises as “regrettable.”
Defense relations between Greece and the UAE have also grown closer.
In August 2020, the UAE deployed four of its air force’s F-16s to Crete amidst growing tensions between Greece and Turkey over their disputes concerning maritime boundaries and offshore resource rights in the East Mediterranean.
That was a clear demonstration of solidarity between the two countries, which share strong opposition toward Turkey’s foreign policy.
The following November, the two countries signed a strategic partnership which, among other things, calls for each country to come to the aid of the other in the event their territorial integrity is threatened.