ATHENS, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) — Greece’s parliament approved on Thursday the purchase of 18 French-made Rafale fighter jets (6 new ones and 12 used) to the tune of 2.5 billion euros (3.04 billion U.S. dollars), national news agency AMNA reported.
The draft bill on the defense procurement deal was supported by the ruling party, as well as several opposition parties.
The delivery of the first planes will be made this year and the program will be completed in 2023, according to the timetable.
The agreement is part of a wider 11.5-billion-euro plan to modernize Greek armed forces by 2025.
Addressing the plenary shortly before the vote, Minister of National Defense Nikos Panagiotopoulos said the program “sends a strong signal that Greece will do everything possible to defend its sovereign rights with increased deterrent capabilities of its armed forces.”
The minister added that this was an effort which “became imperative due to the current situation with the many and complex challenges in the wider region.”
The arms deal came as tensions between Greece and Turkey over energy sources in the Mediterranean heated up in the past several months.
Greece and Turkey have long disagreed on overlapping claims on hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, with both sides holding conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend in waters. Tension in the region has increased in recent months over maritime boundaries and rights to energy resources.
Earlier this week Greece and Turkey announced that they will resume exploratory talks on Jan. 25 in Istanbul on the delimitation of their maritime zones, after a four-year break.
The previous round of exploratory talks between the two sides had taken place in 2016. (1 euro = 1.22 U.S. dollars)