Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday that Greece has no intention of engaging in an arms race with Turkey, following the agreement with France to buy at least three frigates.
“I do not intend to enter into an arms race with Turkey, and I’m always reaching out a hand of friendship to Turkey,” the Prime Minister said during a Democracy Forum conference in Athens.
“We have big differences on many issues, but there should be a way to solve these differences through dialogue,” Mitsotakis stressed. “At the same time, we will defend our territory, our territorial integrity, our sovereignty, our sovereign rights. And in order to do so, we need a strong deterrence.”
French frigates for deterrence, not for arms race with Turkey
His comments came two days after Greece signed a defense deal with France worth around 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion), including the purchase of three French frigates for the Greek Navy.
“We bought the frigates at the best price and with the best delivery time,” Mitsotakis added, saying that the ships Greece ordered will place the Hellenic Navy firmly in the digital age and significantly enhance the country’s deterrence capability.
“The specific investments are within the existing fiscal framework of the country and are in no way being made at the expense of our other priorities…And we have an obligation to make sure that we have the capacity to defend ourselves,” the Greek Prime Minister added.
The agreement Greece signed with France includes a deal for mutual assistance in the case of an attack by a third country.
That clause “essentially says that if any of the countries is attacked, if its territory is challenged, its sovereignty is challenged, then there is an obligation by the other party to assist it,” Mitsotakis said. “And this is a strategic partnership which in my mind goes above and beyond the mutual assistance clauses that are currently included in the European treaties.”
The deal, he said, wasn’t in competition with NATO or any other alliances.
“We have a strategic partnership with the United States that is going from strength to strength. We’re 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 are NATO members. So there is no real competition here. We’re talking about complementary initiatives.”
Greece buys additional Rafale jets
Earlier in September, Greece announced it will buy six more Rafale fighter jets from France, bringing the total the number of French fighters sold to Athens to 24.
“I announced the purchase of 18 Rafale. Soon there will be 24,” he said during the Thessaloniki International Fair, adding that the first aircraft, a second-hand model from France’s own airforce, would be flying Greek colors “before the end of the year.”