Greece to boost military amid tensions with Turkey

ATHENS, Greece — Greece will bolster its military with new arms, more personnel and by developing the country’s defense industry, the government said Monday, as a tense standoff with neighboring Turkey has led to concerns of open conflict between the two NATO allies.

Ankara is facing off against Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Greece and Turkey have deployed naval and air forces to assert their competing claims.

“The Turkish leadership is unleashing, on a near daily basis, threats of war and makes provocative statements against Greece,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said. “We respond with political, diplomatic and operational readiness, determined to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereign rights.”

Petsas said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis would be announcing details of plans to upgrade the country’s military during his annual state of the economy speech on Saturday.

Last week, Greece raised 2.5 billion euros ($2.96 billion) in a bond auction as the country seeks to increase military spending and raise funds for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Greek media have reported the purchases may include French-made Rafale fighter jets and at least one French frigate. Petsas said Mitsotakis would be meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday on the sidelines of a meeting in Corsica of the European Union’s Mediterranean countries.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan characterized Greece’s armed forces as “dilapidated” and called on Athens to seek a dialogue with Turkey. He also criticized the EU, which has backed EU member Greece in the dispute.

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