| 23 February 2024, Friday |

Greece approves its biggest naval modernisation in 20 years

Greece will spend 2.26bn euros ($2.53bn), over the next four years, buying three Belharra frigates built by France’s Naval Group, considered state of the art in the Western arsenal, after being approved upon by Greek opposition parties and the government.
Over the next year, Greece is expected to increase the order to four frigates and four corvettes to accompany them.

While the world’s attention is focused on the full-scale Russian invasion in Ukraine, the Greeks are worried that another war may be drawing close in the Aegean.

Tension with Turkey has been growing over territorial waters and sovereign rights to mine undersea mineral wealth.
Turkey has a standing threat of war against Greece, should it claim the full 12 nautical miles of territorial water allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Because of Greece’s many islands, this would give Athens ownership of 71.5 percent of the Aegean.

Last year, Turkish military vessels and jets carried out 2,085 violations of Greek territorial water and 2,459 violations of its national airspace.

“In the Aegean, ‘tongues’ are methodically being created, projections of Turkish naval power, where there are open spaces between Greek islands,” said opposition Syriza MP Sofia Sakorafa in parliament.
“Turkish air patrols along the 25th meridian [in the middle of the Aegean] are now regular occurrences … Our national airspace and territory have become a field of hostile actions.”

Shipbuilding programme
Turkey also disagrees with the UN law on the rights of Greece’s islands to a sovereign exploration zone for oil and gas.

Last year, Turkey went a step further, disputing Greece’s sovereignty over its islands in the east Aegean.

Turkey’s own shipbuilding programme has alarmed the Greeks.
“Ankara has launched an ambitious programme to build a blue water navy for projecting power far away from home,” Dr Emmanuel Karagiannis, associate professor of international security, King’s College London, told Al Jazeera.

“Modelled after the Spanish ship Juan Carlos, the newly built amphibious assault ship Anadolu could conduct long-distance combat operations. The Turkish Navy has also designed and built four Istanbul-class frigates with multi-role combat capabilities,” he said.

Ruling New Democracy MP Dora Bakoyannis, who is prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s sister, said, “Greece continues to face a consistent and permanent threat from Turkey.

“We all agree about this in parliament. We also all know that effective diplomacy requires that the country is properly defended.”

  • Aljazeera