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Turkey warns against warship deal between France, Greece

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic (file photo)

Turkey says a recent warship deal between France and Greece threatens the region’s stability as it is aimed at isolating Ankara.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman lashed out at the multibillion-euro deal that will see Athens purchase three French warships. “Greece’s armament and the isolating and alienating of Turkey, instead of cooperation, is a problematic policy that will harm Greece and the EU, and that threatens regional peace and stability,” Tanju Bilgic said on Friday.

He noted that the deal with France was part of Greece’s effort to bolster what he called “maximalist maritime zone and air space claims” that were “contrary to international law.”

After meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Elysee Palace on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said Athens would buy three Belharra frigates from France as part of a deeper “strategic partnership.”

Macron said the $3.51-billion frigate sale was not meant to be seen as a threat against Ankara, but rather to ensure security in the Mediterranean as well as North Africa, West Asia and the Balkans.

Turkey and Greece, both NATO allies, remain at odds over issues including the treatment of refugee boats. Last year, they came close to an armed conflict when their gunboats collided as they maneuvered close to each other in disputed waters during a standoff over energy exploration.

The Greek premier also said on Thursday that Athens has no intention of competing against Turkey in an arms race. “At the same time,” he said, “we will defend our territory, our territorial integrity, our sovereignty, our sovereign rights.” “And in order to do so, we need a strong deterrence.”

“We cannot ignore the fact that we live in a very complicated neighborhood. It is a reality of geography which we cannot ignore,” he said. The prime minister added that Greece is “always reaching out a hand of friendship to Turkey.”

“We have big differences on many issues, but there should be a way to solve these differences through dialogue.”

The agreement Athens signed with Paris 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.

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


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