Greece has signed a contract with France to purchase three new frigates, with an option to buy a fourth vessel in the future, as Paris attempts to recover its losses from a major submarine contract with Australia.
At a news conference on Tuesday with his Greek counterpart, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, French President Emmanuel Macron praised the pact and its wider benefits for the European continent.
“It contributes to European security, to the strengthening of Europe’s strategic autonomy and sovereignty, and thus to international peace and security,” Macron said.
The Athens-Paris alliance, which allows Greece to purchase three frigates from France, and a fourth optional, was hailed by Mitsotakis as binding the two countries together “for decades.”
Greece’s PM, however, made it clear that the deal would not spoil Greek-US relations, nor hinder a deal it has under discussion with Washington. “France stood by us during difficult times in the summer of 2020,” Mitsotakis explained, referring to tensions with Turkey in the Aegean Sea.
The agreement, said by some French media sources to be worth up to €5 billion ($5.86 billion), however, is merely a dent in the ditched multi-billion-euro deal France’s Naval Group had with Australia.
Almost two weeks ago, Washington, London, and Canberra announced that they would combine forces under a new pact, dubbed AUKUS, to provide Australia with nuclear-powered, but conventionally armed submarines. According to the three nations, the initiative is dedicated to a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” a move that appears to counter China’s influence in the region.
The new alliance soured relations between France and the three AUKUS partners. In the wake of the deal, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described Canberra’s ditching of the agreement as a “stab in the back,” which broke the “relationship of trust with Australia.” He also said that such action “isn’t done between allies.”
Aside from vocal condemnation of the pact, Paris recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for consultations. It also symbolically canceled its celebrations for the Battle of the Capes, a 1781 French naval victory over the British that helped America gain its independence.
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