Greece and France sign $2.8 billion fighter jet deal

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Greece signed a $2.8 billion deal with France on Monday to purchase 18 Rafale fighter jets, as tensions remain high with neighbour Turkey.

Florence Parly, the French Defense Minister, signed the agreement in Athens to deliver 12 used and six new aircraft built by Dassault Aviation over two years, starting in July.

France has sided with Greece in a dispute over boundaries in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean that has brought NATO members Greece and Turkey to the brink of war several times in recent decades.

French Defense Minister, Florence Parly, right, and her Greek counterpart, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, speak during their meeting in Athens, Monday, January 25, 2021. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool via AP.

READ MORE: Tension grows as Greece, France and Turkey have heated war of words.

Tension spiked again last summer when a Turkish exploration mission in disputed waters triggered a dangerous military buildup.

Greece and Turkey have agreed to restart talks aimed at resolving the dispute peacefully. Senior diplomats from the two countries met in Istanbul on Monday to resume the process that had been interrupted for nearly five years.

French Defense Minister, Florence Parly, left, and her Greek counterpart, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, right, arrive for a meeting in Athens, Monday, January 25, 2021. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool via AP.

But Athens says it will continue a multibillion-euro program to upgrade its military following years of cuts because of the country’s financial crisis.

READ MORE: French defence minister claims France will stand by Greece over tensions in Aegean Sea.

France and the United States are in competition to provide the Greek navy with new frigates, while Greece’s government recently approved plans to cooperate with Israeli defense electronics firm, Elbit Systems, to create a new military flight academy in southern Greece.

Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, welcomes French Defense Minister, Florence Parly, centre, as Greek Defence Minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos looks on, during their meeting in Athens on Monday January 25, 2021. Photo: AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris.

Starting in May, mandatory national service in the Greek Armed Forces will also be increased from nine to 12 months to boost the number of people serving in uniform.

READ MORE: Greece to officially extend mandatory military service from 9 months to 12 months.

Parly, who also met Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, announced that France would join two Greek military exercises later this year, participating with Rafale jets from the French air force.

Source: AP News.

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