ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greek lawmakers debated and voted on Thursday on a broad five-year defense pact signed last week with France, which includes a mutual assistance clause in the event of a third-party attack.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis signed the agreement with French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to Paris on September 28, during which Greece also announced that it would purchase three French frigates for the Greek navy.
The purchase and defense agreement comes at a time of generally heightened tension between Greece and its fellow NATO member and neighbor Turkey over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Thursday’s parliamentary debate and vote are all about the defense pact, not the purchase of warships. The deal is expected to be ratified because the ruling conservatives have a comfortable majority in parliament.
Calling the pact “historic”, Mitsotakis said the deal meant the strengthening of Greece “in the troubled Mediterranean, and at the same time the first daring step of Europe’s strategic autonomy”.
The benefits of the deal, he said, were clear.
“For the first time, an explicit and unequivocal military assistance clause is provided in the event of a third party attack against one of the two states,” Mitsotakis said. “We all know … who threatens whom with a casus belli in the eastern Mediterranean.”
Turkey said it would be a casus belli – a cause of war – if Greece extended its territorial waters from the current six to 12 nautical miles in the Aegean Sea between the two countries.
Turkey contends that such a decision would transform the Aegean Sea into a predominantly Greek sea. Athens maintains that it has the right to extend 12 nautical miles in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and recently extended its western territorial waters, in the Ionian Sea facing Italy, to 12 nautical miles.
Regional rivals Greece and Turkey have been at daggers drawn for decades over a series of disputes, including the delimitation of the continental shelf, territorial rights over the Aegean Sea, air and sea borders and the delimitation of exclusive economic zones – areas where each country has exclusive rights. rights to resource exploitation – in the Mediterranean.
The Greek government announced last year that it would overhaul its military, including hiring personnel and a major military procurement program that has already seen the country purchase 18 French Rafale fighter jets.
The defense agreement with France includes a mutual assistance clause, which stipulates that the two parties will assist each other “with all the appropriate means at their disposal, and if necessary with the use of armed force, if they jointly note that an armed attack is taking place against the territory of one of the two.
The agreement also includes a provision for Greece’s participation in French-led military operations such as those conducted in the Sahel region of Africa.
Mitsotakis said last week that the mutual assistance clause “basically says that if one of the countries is attacked, if its territory is contested, its sovereignty is contested, then there is an obligation by the other side of the l ‘to help”.
The idea of collective defense is a fundamental principle of NATO, of which Greece and France are members, as is Turkey. Article 5 of the Alliance Treaty states that an attack on a member country is considered an attack on all.
“Does Article 5 apply in the event of an attack by a NATO member?” I’m not sure NATO has ever been very clear on this issue, ”Mitsotakis said when asked at the conference why Greece needed a further alliance deal. “My obligation is to defend my country and to form the necessary alliances beyond the security arrangements we already have.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg appeared on Tuesday to criticize European defense initiatives that are not part of NATO.
“What I don’t believe in are efforts to try to do something outside of NATO or to compete or duplicate NATO, because NATO remains the cornerstone, the foundation of European security, and also North American security, “Stoltenberg said in a speech without directly mentioning the defense agreement between Greece and France.
Derek Gatopoulos contributed to this report.