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France, Greece sign defense deal; Athens to buy 3 warships

France and Greece have announced a multibillion-euro defense deal including Athens’ decision to buy three French warships

President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a defense and security strategic partnership in a joint news conference in Paris.

“This partnership expresses our will to increase and intensify our cooperation in the defense and security sector based on our mutual interests,” Macron said. It will “help protect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity of both states.”

Mitsotakis said it comes “out of national motivation to shield our country,” but also has “a European motive as it strengthens our common defense industry.”

“Greece and France are today taking a bold first step towards European strategic autonomy,” he added, saying it’s paving the way towards “a Europe that … will be able to defend (its interests) in the wider region, in the eastern Mediterranean, in the Middle East.”

Greece has already bought 18 French Rafale fighter jets and plans to purchase another six under a program to modernize its armed forces.

Macron and Mitsotakis didn’t immediately disclose further details of the deal. A top French official said the deal was worth “several billion” euros.

Tensions between Greece and historic regional rival Turkey have increased in recent years over gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean and waters between the two countries.

Both countries have been at loggerheads for decades over a long series of issues, including territorial rights in the Aegean Sea, maritime and aviation boundaries, and minority rights.

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Derek Gatopoulos contributed to this story from Athens, Greece.

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