Athens modernizes Greek military capabilities to deter Turkish pirates in Mediterranean
The language of force has become prominent in the ongoing conflict in the eastern Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey. In flagrant violation of international conventions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to pursue provocations in the Mediterranean in search of gas, which has invited Athens to develop and strengthen its military and defense capabilities in the eastern Mediterranean in preparation for a confrontation with Ankara and to stop Turkey’s intransigence under Erdogan.
Developing military capabilities
Athens has begun to activate plans to develop its defense capabilities in the country by purchasing many combat aircraft, helicopters and frigates, in addition to new weapons systems, amid the tensions with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean due to the latter’s illegal gas exploration.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis decided to develop Greece’s military capabilities during the annual State of the Economy speech. He confirmed that Athens would receive 18 new French Rafale fighter jets to replace its old Mirage 2000 fighters, and it would buy four navy helicopters and four new frigates, while four more frigates are being renewed. He added that the Greek forces will obtain new anti-tank weapons, new torpedoes and new guided missiles, in addition to employing an additional 15,000 people over the next five years.
Meanwhile, French Defense Minister Florence Parly welcomed the Greek prime minister’s announcement of purchasing 18 Rafale aircraft, stressing that this strengthens the link between the Greek and French armed forces and will allow them to intensify their practical and strategic cooperation. She added that a contract will be signed in the coming months.
Turkish threats unhelpful
After Turkey conducted live ammunition exercises between its southern coast and northern Cyprus, Mitsotakis emphasized that Ankara is now adding to the provocations in the Aegean Sea and undermining peace in the entire Mediterranean. He noted that the Greek armed forces have been lacking funding in recent years during the recession, but stressed that “the time has come to strengthen the armed forces as a legacy of the country's security.”
Athens seeks to pressure the European Union to impose sanctions on Turkey unless Ankara withdraws its exploration vessel Oruc Reis from the eastern Mediterranean region, which Greece claims belongs to its continental shelf.
The Greek government confirmed that Ankara has begun to realize that its policy of threats is not useful, as Erdogan cannot confront the civilized world. Greek Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said in televised statements that Turkey has begun to understand that this policy of provocations does not lead them anywhere, noting that Athena sent a message to Ankara that if it moves towards conflict, it will lose, but if it moves towards peace and reconciliation, then it has good-faith interlocutors to find a solution.
Greece and Turkey, which are nominal allies in NATO, have deployed naval and air units to confirm their competing claims over energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish exploration and drilling ships continue to explore for gas in the waters, while Greece and Cyprus are demanding exclusive economic rights.
The Turkish exploration ship Oruc Reis was sent with the protection of a war fleet to the disputed region in the eastern Mediterranean that is rich in natural gas, which has raised tensions with Greece. However, the ship has returned to the port of Antalya in southern Turkey for the first time in weeks after Ankara announced in July that the ship had been sent to search for oil and gas in Greek waters. The Greek government confirmed that the withdrawal of the Turkish drilling vessel from the Mediterranean waters is a positive sign.
Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak said that the authorities in Ankara did not extend the ship’s mission, which ended on Saturday, September 12, adding that it had returned to the port of Antalya in the south of the country. The newspaper stressed that the decision not to extend the mission is a step to give diplomacy an opportunity, noting that this is related to the attempts to launch talks between Greece and Turkey.
On the other hand, Mitsotakis considered the departure of the Turkish exploration ship from the eastern Mediterranean to be a positive step for Greek-Turkish relations, and he hopes for more positive steps to come in the future.