Israel seeks to sell fighter jets to Greece
A senior Israeli defense delegation from the Israeli Defense Ministry and local military industries reportedly traveled to Greece this week to discuss a possible deal to sell F-16 fighter jets.
Israel’s Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli officials on Sunday that this deal has been in progress for several months already, since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic visit to Greece this August.
Israel and Greece, both Turkey’s rivals, have conducted several joint air drills in the past year following a debacle in diplomatic and military relations between Turkey and the Jewish state particularly following the flotilla incident, an Israeli bungle over an aid boat that left nine civilians killed. Greece has long complained of the flights of Turkish fighter jets over the Aegean, what it calls a “violation of its airspace.”
Greece recently ended negotiations with Russia to import 450 infantry fighting vehicles amid its financial crisis, news reports said on Nov. 22. Greece, one of Europe’s top military spenders, has said earlier that it would postpone any purchases of warships or fighter planes as it struggled to pull itself out of a financial crisis that pushed it close to bankruptcy.
Due to decades-long tension with Turkey, debt-ridden Greece has the EU’s biggest military budget as a percentage of gross domestic product, and the second highest in NATO after the United States. It is in talks with France over the purchase of six FREMM frigates, while Germany, France and others are eager to sell the country 40 fighter jets. However, Greek Alternate Defense Minister Panos Beglitis, who is in charge of military procurement, said in an interview in June that Greece will hold off on any purchase.
Turkey has called on Greece several times to relinquish its vast military spending due to a protracted dispute over Aegean with Turkey, but Greece has since remained contemptuous to these calls. The neighboring countries have disagreed about sea and air borders for almost 15 years.
The report also said Israel would continue to cooperate with Greece and was also likely to hold maneuvers in Bulgaria in the beginning of 2011, Israeli officials noted.
Turkey has also excluded Greece from the list of countries that are a threat to national security in its recently approved security document, but instead included Israel as a threat to its national security.
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