Greece approves purchase of 18 French-made Rafale fighter planes amid tensions with Turkey

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Greek lawmakers in a vote Thursday approved a defense procurement program to purchase 18 French-made Rafale fighter planes, part of an armaments plan announced by the government in September.

Greece has earmarked 11.5 billion euros ($14 billion) for the modernization of its armed forces over the next five years, at a time of increased tension with neighboring Turkey.

Relations between the two NATO members, often strained, deteriorated sharply last year, with warships facing off in the Eastern Mediterranean in a dispute over maritime boundaries and energy rights.

Turkey, the country with the longest coastline on the Eastern Mediterranean, has sent drillships with a military escort to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also have rights in the region.

To reduce tensions, Turkey has called for dialogue to ensure the fair sharing of the region’s resources.

Delivery of the 18 Rafale jets — 12 currently in service in France and six new planes to be built by Dassault Aviation — is scheduled to begin mid-year and to be completed over two years. The jets and the purchase of compatible air-to-air Meteor missiles are expected to cost 2.3 billion euros ($3.4 billion).

Lawmakers from the governing center-right party as well as the two largest opposition parties voted in favor of the program, backing legislation that was fast-tracked through parliament.

Government spokesperson Christos Tarantilis said the program was part of the government’s move “for the immediate reinforcement of the deterrent capabilities of our armed forces.”

The Greek drive aims to modernize the army navy and air force and includes the hiring of 15,000 personnel.

The program features plans to purchase warships, anti-submarine warfare helicopters and drones, and upgrade its F-16 fighter jet fleet by 2027

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