Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced a “robust” arms purchase programme and an overhaul of the country’s military, amid tension with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“The time has come to reinforce the armed forces … these initiatives constitute a robust programme that will become a national shield,” Mitsotakis said in a keynote address on Saturday in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
Mitsotakis said Greece would acquire 18 French-made Rafale warplanes, four multipurpose frigates, and four navy helicopters, while also recruiting 15,000 new troops and pouring resources into the national arms industry and cyberattack defence.
New anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes, and air force missiles will be secured, Mitsotakis said.
The programme, which includes upgrades of the existing four frigates, is also designed to create thousands of jobs, he said.
More details on the cost of the programme and origin of the weapons purchases will be announced at a news conference on Sunday, a government source told AFP news agency.
Mitsotakis is believed to have hammered out the programme after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a southern European leaders summit in Corsica this week.
France has strongly backed Greece in its burgeoning showdown with Turkey, as well as Cyprus.
Macron has told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to cross “red lines” and has sent warships and fighter jets to the region.
Turkey in August sent an exploration ship and a small navy flotilla to conduct seismic research in disputed waters that Greece considers its own. Turkey says it has equal rights to the resources in those waters.
Greece responded by shadowing the Turkish flotilla with its warships, and by staging naval exercises with several European Union allies and the United Arab Emirates in its show of force.
Turkey “threatens” Europe’s eastern border and “undermines” regional security, Mitsotakis said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Erdogan took aim at Macron following the French criticism about Turkish maritime activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, as tensions between the NATO allies continue to escalate.
“You will have many more problems with me,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul on Saturday. “Don’t mess with the Turkish people. Don’t mess with Turkey.”
Erdogan also said France has no right to criticise Turkey, considering its colonial record.
On Friday, Macron said Europe needed to be “clear and firm” with Erdogan’s government over its actions. France and Turkey have also been at odds recently over an arms embargo on Libya.