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France, Greece Sign Defense Deal       09/28 06:07


   PARIS (AP) -- France and Greece on Tuesday announced a multibillion-euro 
defense deal, including Athens' decision to buy three French warships as part 
of a strategy to boost its defense capacities in the Eastern Mediterranean amid 
recurring tensions with longtime foe Turkey.

   President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis 
announced a defense and security strategic partnership in a joint news 
conference in Paris.

   "This partnership expresses our will to increase and intensify our 
cooperation in the defense and security sector based on our mutual interests," 
Macron said. It will "help protect the sovereignty, independence, territorial 
integrity of both states."

   Greece will purchase three French frigates to be built by defense contractor 
Naval Group in Lorient, in western France. The deal includes an option for the 
acquisition of a fourth frigate.

   Mitsotakis said it comes "out of national motivation to shield our country," 
but also has "a European motive as it strengthens our common defense industry."

   "Greece and France are today taking a bold first step towards European 
strategic autonomy," he added, saying it's paving the way towards "a Europe 
that ... will be able to defend (its interests) in the wider region, in the 
eastern Mediterranean, in the Middle East."

   The announcement comes at a key time for France after the loss this month of 
a $66 billion deal to sell diesel-electric submarines to Australia, which 
instead chose to acquire nuclear-powered submarines provided by the U.S. The 
three-way strategic defense alliance announced by Australia, the U.K. and the 
U.S. came as a shock to French officials.

   Greece has already bought 18 French Rafale fighter jets and plans to 
purchase another six under a program to modernize its armed forces.

   Macron and Mitsotakis didn't immediately disclose further details of the 
deal. A top French official said the deal was worth "several billion" euros.

   Tensions between Greece and historic regional rival Turkey have increased in 
recent years over gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean and 
waters between the two countries.

   Both countries have been at loggerheads for decades over a long series of 
issues, including territorial rights in the Aegean Sea, maritime and aviation 
boundaries, and minority rights.

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