Asharq Al-awsat English https://aawsat.com/english Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper http://feedly.com/icon.svg

US, Greece Expand Defense Ties

US, Greece Expand Defense Ties

Friday, 15 October, 2021 - 04:30
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias shake hands after signing the renewal of the US-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement at the State Department in Washington on Thursday. (AFP)

Greece on Thursday expanded a defense agreement with the United States days after ratifying a separate deal with France in a tacit signal to Turkey following high tensions.


The agreement signed in Washington marks a deepening of US relations with a longstanding European ally, despite a growing focus by President Joe Biden's administration on Asia.


Greece and the United States signed a five-year extension of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, which has been renewed each year since 1990, with an understanding it will remain in force indefinitely afterward unless either country gives a two-year notice.


Greece will also allow a greater US troop presence in sites including Alexandroupolis -- a port near the Turkish border -- as well as the key US hub of Souda Bay in Crete.


Signing the agreement with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias did not explicitly mention Turkey but said Athens has peacefully worked to set maritime demarcations with other neighbors -- Egypt, Italy and Albania.


"In the Eastern Mediterranean," Dendias said, "Greece is facing a casus belli, a threat with war if it exercises its sovereign rights and, I have to say, Greece is facing daily provocation."


"Greece is committed to resolve disputes with diplomacy and always in accordance with international law," AFP quoted him as saying.


Blinken called Greece a "strong and reliable ally" and, in a later statement, said the expanded agreement would "advance security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond."


Tensions soared last year when Turkey sent an exploration ship and small navy flotilla to conduct research in waters that Greece considers its own under treaties.


The Greek parliament a week ago ratified a major defense agreement with France, with Athens buying three frigates at a cost of three billion euros ($3.5 billion).


Turkey denounced the French deal, saying the goal was the "isolating and alienating of Turkey instead of cooperation."


In a recent radio interview, Greek junior foreign minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis called Turkey's reaction "very intense and aggressive," and said the US expansion in Alexandroupolis sends "a very strong message regarding the protection of the Greek-Turkish border" -- also a key gateway for undocumented migrants into the European Union.


France secured the deal with Greece over a US bid as it was smarting from the loss of a major submarine contract with Australia, which said it needed US nuclear technology amid rising tension with China.


Editor Picks

Multimedia