Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has welcomed a 'historic' defence agreement with France that could protect his country from aggression by fellow Nato member Turkey.
Politicians in Greece were debating and voting on Thursday on the five-year defence pact signed with France, which includes a clause of mutual assistance in case of attack by a third party.
Mr Mitsotakis hailed the pact as a historic step in European Union relations.
Turkey is a member of Nato, Article 5 of which stipulates that an attack on one member nation is considered an attack on all. But it is also a fierce Aegean regional rival for power, with contesting claims in land, sea and mineral rights.
Mr Mitsotakis said the deal strengthened Greece “in the troubled Mediterranean, and at the same time is the first bold step in the strategic autonomy of Europe”.
“For the first time it is clearly stipulated that there be military assistance in the event of a third party attacking one of the two states,” Mr Mitsotakis said.
“And we all know who is threatening whom with a casus belli in the Mediterranean,” he added, in a clear reference to Turkey.
He was speaking to Greek politicians before a parliamentary vote on Thursday to ratify the accord.
Greece and Turkey are at odds over the extent of their continental shelves and their maritime boundaries, a fact which has hindered any expansion by Athens of its territorial waters to 19 kilometres in the Aegean.
Greece announced last year that it would overhaul its military, including the hiring of personnel and a major military procurement programme that has led to the country buying 18 French Rafale fighter jets.
The defence deal with France includes the mutual assistance clause, which states that the two sides will come to each other’s aid “with all appropriate means at their disposal, and if necessary with the use of armed force, if they jointly ascertain that an armed attack is taking place against the territory of one of the two.”
The deal also includes a provision for Greek participation in French-led military operations such as those it has conducted in the Sahel region.
Relations between Greece and Turkey have long been strained over territorial issues in the Eastern Mediterranean, including air space, energy, the status of some Aegean Islands, and the status of Cyprus.
The two countries relaunched exploratory contacts on their disputes earlier this year. Another round of bilateral discussions, which are informal, took place in Ankara on Wednesday.