A Franco-Greek defence pact, against potential Turkish aggression against Greece and Cyprus, was approved by the Greek parliament on Thursday.
Diplomatic delegations from Greece and Turkey have held consultations this week in order to curb their increasing tensions between them. But their meeting on Wednesday in the Turkish capital Ankara did not yield any concrete results as far as we know.
The Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar warned on Tuesday that Greece should not let itself be incited against Turkey. And a spokesman for the Turkish ruling party AKP assured on Wednesday that the country will not make any concessions on its ‘blue Fatherland’, referring to controversial waters claimed by both Turkey and Greece and Cyprus.
“We are prepared to fight for the Blue Fatherland.”
The tension between Athens and Ankara grew last week due to a defence pact concluded by Greece and France. The French will supply three frigates and three corvettes to the Greeks for about EUR 3 billion. This deal comes on top of an earlier contract of 2.5 billion euros for the supply of eighteen fighter jets. The two countries also stated that they would assist each other militarily in the event of an attack.
This latter agreement is particularly striking, because Greece and France both belong to NATO, so they are already obliged to defend each other against aggression. But the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, explained that it is not clear what solidarity is about when his country is attacked by another NATO member, such as Turkey.
” I am not looking for an arms race with Turkey”, assured Mitsotakis. The defence agreement was approved by the Greek parliament on Thursday, despite opposition from the Left Opposition party Syriza.
Greece and Turkey have traditionally been rivals and have been at war with each other several times. Last year, tension was still rife when a Turkish research vessel, protected by naval vessels, sailed into disputed waters to search for gas. Greek warships shadowed the Turkish vessels, and France sent a frigate and two fighter jets to support them. “I don’t feel like Greece was the country that was belligerent last year,” said French president Emmanuel Macron last week.
In the background, Turkey is increasingly showing itself to be a regional power. The Turks are producing more and more defence equipment themselves. They have also intervened militarily in Iraq, Syria and Libya in recent years, and are increasingly independent of NATO. America has been refusing for some time to supply advanced F35 fighter jets to Turkey, because the country has bought anti-aircraft missiles from Russia.
Europe is divided over the growing Turkish assertiveness. Unlike France, some other European countries, Germany first and foremost, are trying to keep Ankara close. For example, the Germans are currently helping the Turks to build six modern submarines for about 3 billion euros. This is because Germany has a large Turkish minority, so it benefits from a good relationship. Berlin sees Ankara, among other things, as a crucial partner in curbing irregular immigration.