Greece receives first Rafale fighter jets from France

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ATHENS, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Six new Rafale fighter jets flew low over the Acropolis in central Athens on Wednesday, the first planes purchased under a defence deal with France that has further stirred tensions with Greece’s historic rival and NATO partner Turkey.

Greece has ordered a total of 24 Dassault-made jets at a cost of about 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) as it seeks to modernise its armed forces amid a long-simmering dispute with Turkey over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

“They are on their way,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis posted on Twitter on Tuesday evening, uploading a video of Greek airforce pilots boarding the Rafale jets.

Greek television broadcast live the approach of the first six jets heading towards the Tanagra airbase near Athens. “Welcome home,” beamed a message from the Tanagra tower.

A priest blesses the first six of 24 Rafale fighter jets for Greece’s Air Force after they arrived at Tanagra’s Air Base, Tanagra, Greece. EPA-EFE/GIORGOS VITSARAS

Greece’s parliament ratified in October a strategic military and defence pact with France, a NATO ally, whereby they would come to each other’s aid in the event of an external threat.

The pact also includes an order for three French frigates worth a further 3 billion euros.

The deals, which come after a decade-long financial crisis in Greece, have fuelled distrust in Turkey, at loggerheads with Athens over issues including their respective maritime boundaries and the extent of each country’s continental shelf.

France says the accord is not aimed against any third country but that Greece, guarding the European Union’s southeastern flank, must be protected.

Relations between Greece and Turkey have also long been strained over other territorial issues in the eastern Mediterranean, including air space, energy, the status of some Aegean islands, and the ethnically-divided island of Cyprus.

Athens and Ankara re-launched exploratory contacts on their disputes last year.

($1 = 0.8821 euros)

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos Editing by Gareth Jones)

 

One of the first six of 24 Rafale fighter jets for Greece’s Air Force after it arrived at Tanagra’s Air Base, Tanagra, Greece, 19 January 2022. The aircraft took off from Istres in France and landed at the 114 Tanagra Air Base. The Rafale jets flew over the Acropolis on their way to the Air Base of Tanagra. EPA-EFE/GIORGOS VITSARAS

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