By DEREK GATOPOULOS, Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece on Thursday signed deals worth some 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) to buy three additional navy frigates and six Rafale fighter jets from France. , as Athens bolsters its armed forces in response to tensions with neighboring Turkey.
Defense Ministers Nikos Panagiotopoulos of Greece and Florence Parly of France attended the signing ceremony on the eve of the Greek National Day, aboard a 112-year-old battleship that is currently a floating museum.
“It is with solidarity that we confront the threats to our nations and our interests,” Parly said. “It also demonstrates our desire to partner with the industry for the long term.”
The three French FDI-class frigates will be built by defense contractor Naval Group in Lorient, western France, for delivery by 2026. The agreement signed on Thursday includes an option to purchase one fourth frigate at a later date.
The six new Rafale jets, to be built by France’s Dassault Aviation, were added to an earlier order for 18 Rafales that included planes previously in service with the French Air Force.
France backed Athens’ positions during a tense 2020 naval standoff with Turkey over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Last year in Paris, Greek and French leaders signed a security assistance pact that provides for closer cooperation between the two countries’ forces.
Parly’s visit coincided with a buildup of NATO naval forces in the Mediterranean, largely in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After the signing ceremony, the two Defense Ministers visited the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, anchored off the port of Piraeus, near Athens.
French jets from the aircraft carrier will also take part in an annual military parade in Athens on Friday to mark the national holiday, an event in which Parly will take part.
Late Thursday, protesters backed by the Communist Party of Greece staged a protest in the port of Piraeus against the arms deal as well as Greece’s involvement in NATO’s response to the war in Ukraine. The demonstration ended peacefully.
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