US, Greece expand defense ties amid Mediterranean tensions
Greece on Thursday expanded a defense deal with the United States days after ratifying a separate deal with France at a time of high tensions with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.
The deal signed in Washington marks a deepening of U.S. relations with a longtime European ally despite President Joe Biden’s administration’s growing focus on Asia.
Greece and the United States have signed a five-year extension of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, which has been renewed annually since 1990 with the understanding that it will remain in effect indefinitely thereafter, unless that either country gives two years’ notice.
The extension also continues to expand access to Greece for US troops, whose key hub is the NATO base at Souda Bay.
In signing the agreement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Greece a “strong and reliable ally” and underlined the assistance of NATO’s partner in Afghanistan.
Neither Blinken nor Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias made explicit mention of Turkey, but Athens launched an ambitious arms purchase program last year after a maritime standoff with its fellow NATO ally.
“In the Eastern Mediterranean,” said Dendias, “Greece faces a casus belli, a threat of war if it exercises its sovereign rights and, I must say, Greece faces daily provocations.”
“Greece is committed to resolving disputes diplomatically and always in accordance with international law,” he said.
He expressed appreciation for the United States’ engagement, saying, “We understand that the United States is increasingly concerned about challenges in other parts of the world.
Greece’s parliament ratified a major defense deal with France a week earlier, with Athens buying three frigates at a cost of three billion euros ($ 3.5 billion).
The deal was announced as France remains concerned about the loss of a major submarine contract with Australia, which has said it needs US nuclear technology amid growing tension with China.
Dendias said the deal with France “will help strengthen NATO’s European pillar” and promote “a more equitable burden-sharing between the two sides of the Atlantic”.
Tensions skyrocketed last year when Turkey sent an exploration vessel and a small navy flotilla to conduct research in waters Greece considers its own under treaties.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also recently approved an official partition of Cyprus, which Ankara invaded in 1974 in response to a coup staged by the then Greek military junta.
sct / md