The news prompted Alberto Costa, the Tory MP who chairs Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for Greece, to if Athen’s decision to invest in new equipment was driven by concerns over the activities of its neighbour, NATO needed to broker discussions between the two member states to prevent the situation escalating. Meanwhile UK-based academic Dr Alexander Kazamias, said Greece’s move sent a “confusing signal” at a time when all sides were urging Athens and Ankara to engage in bilateral discussions, adding that he feared it could trigger a “new arms race” in the region.
Speaking yesterday, Greece’s finance minister Christos Staikouras said the country was ready to spend part of its cash reserves on arms purchases and other means which will help increase its “deterrence force”.
Mr Costa, MP for South Leicestershire, told Express.co.uk: “It is in the interests of both countries and NATO that Turkey comply with international law.
“Greece, like every other sovereign nation, has the right to defend itself and, as part of NATO, contribute to the alliance some of its resources.
“To what extent these alleged purchases of aircraft predate the current tensions, I am not aware.
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Alberto Costa in the House of Commons
What the region needs is not a new arms race, but a rapid demilitarisation of the existing tension
“If these alleged purchase discussions arise principally as a result of the current tensions, I would encourage NATO to assist in expediting discussions between these two important member states and seek a quick, peaceful solution in line with international law and NATO requirements.”
Dr Kazamias told Express.co.uk: “The reported purchase of 18 French Rafale fighter jets by Greece, especially in the midst of the current crisis in the East Mediterranean, sends a confusing signal at a time when all sides are urging Athens and Ankara to start bilateral discussions.
“What the region needs is not a new arms race, but a rapid demilitarisation of the existing tension.
“Since the financial crisis of 2008, Greece has been the most bankrupt country in NATO, yet its defence spending continues has risen by 10 percent since 2015 and is well above the Alliance’s guideline of 2 percent of GDP.
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Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece
“Indeed, the country has been typically the 2nd or 3rd highest defence spender in NATO, just after the United States.”
Dr Kazamias added: “Every state has to modernise its air force and diversify its arms procurement, but in the case of Greece, the current arms deal with France comes as an anxious attempt to make up for a serious deficit in diplomacy.
“Reports suggest that Greece’s Finance Minister has found ‘cash reserves’ to spend on this large defence deal.
“With the second most indebted economy in the world, a looming depression that will make the Greek economy shrink by another -10 percent in 2020 and a structural unemployment of 20 percent, one wonders where these “cash reserves” came from; and why they were not already spent on the ailing Greek economy that is in desperate need of financial stimulation.
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A French Rafale fighter jet
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey
“What Greece needs at the moment is a smarter diplomacy in the East Mediterranean to defuse the tension and prevent war, not more fighter planes that will further escalate the dispute.”
A Greek government official explained: “We are in talks with France, and not only with France, in order to increase our country’s defence potential
“Within this framework, there is a discussion which includes the purchase of aircraft.”
No final decisions had been made, the official stressed, reacting to reports in the Greek media suggesting Athens had already to buy 18 Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets from France.
The current dispute involves Turkish operations close to the Greek island of Kastellorizo
A French government source said: “There is no agreement as written in several media.
“However, there are discussions on a number of subjects.”
Greece – led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – has clashed with Turkey – led by President Recept Tayyip Erdogan – in recent weeks over a range of issues including overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the region, based on conflicting claims over the extent of their continental shelves.
Tensions escalated last month after Ankara dispatched the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel in a disputed area following a pact between Athens and Cairo ratifying maritime boundaries.
Turkish research vessel the Oruc Reis
France and Germany have each attempted to defuse the tension, while Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also spoke with US President Donald Trump twice last week.
On Monday night, Turkey extended the Oruc Reis vessel’s work until September 12.
The Turkish advisory came after the EU called for dialogue with Ankara.
Greece’s foreign ministry called the advisory illegal and urged Turkey “to desist from its daily rants and to work for security and stability in the region.