19:39 GMT30 September 2020
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    As Greece-Turkey negotiations over gas drilling remain in limbo, a Greek government official is claiming that Athens wants to expand its "deterrence force" and is currently amid arms talks with a number of countries, including France, to buy a variety of equipment.

    "We are in talks with France, and not only with France, in order to increase our country's defence potential," the Athens official told Reuters on Tuesday.

    "Within this framework, there is a discussion which includes the purchase of aircraft."

    Citing Greek-language outlet iefimerida, the Greek Reporter also claimed the government was involved in talks, and specified that the current details of the aircraft discussions center on the potential procurement of 18 Dassault Rafale twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter jets.

    “There is no agreement as written in several media. However, there are discussions on a number of subjects,” a government source from Paris emphasized to Reuters.

    Greek Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis clarified on Tuesday that Athens is “in consultations” to strengthen its armed forces.

    “We already have the options menu for upgrading existing weapons systems and the purchase of new, under the financial constraints we have.”

    Early reports on the arms talks detailed that Greek officials seek to spend nearly $12 billion (10 billion euros) over the next 10 years. Greek media claims $1.19 billion to $1.8 billion (1 to 1.5 billion euros) have been earmarked for the purchase of missiles, torpedoes and miscellaneous parts in the coming months.

    Greece and neighboring Turkey have recently been entangled in a series of military and political confrontations due to Ankara’s recent exploration of gas drilling in Athens-claimed waters. The near monthlong cycle of contention may come to a halt soon, however, according to Tuesday comments delivered to reporters by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

    "Provided Greece is ready for dialogue, we are ready to negotiate, advocating for a just allocation of resources," Cavusoglu said during a news conference.

    At the same time, Ankara’s openness to negotiations on the continental shelf borders in the eastern Mediterranean Sea should not be taken as a sign of Turkey backing down from its rights.

    "Only police officers and gendarmes may be on the Meis [Kastellorizo] island. If the Greek side tries to exceed the allowed arms limitations, it will end up losing," he added, speaking of an island defined in the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 as a demilitarized zone.

    A woman looks through binoculars as Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in Mediterranean sea, in this undated handout image
    © REUTERS / Greek Ministry of Defense
    A woman looks through binoculars as Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in Mediterranean sea, in this undated handout image

    The EU has threatened Turkey with sanctions over its unilateral drilling efforts, and French President Emmanuel Macron recently accused Ankara of provocations that he suggests may have damaged Turkey’s credibility in NATO.

    “I don’t consider that in recent years Turkey’s strategy is the strategy of a NATO ally ... when you have a country which attacks the exclusive economic zones or the sovereignty of two members of the European Union,” he told reporters on Friday, Reuters reported.

    Despite the obvious tensions and the prospect of significant negotiations, Greece appears to be moving forward in aircraft procurement discussions with France, the EU’s sole nuclear-armed country, which recently deployed military assistance to Greece.

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    Tags:
    drilling, gas, military, Ankara, Turkey, Athens, Greece
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