21 February 2013 EnetEnglish.gr
The government has defended its decision to lease two navy frigates and four military aircraft from France, saying that it was its own choice and in the country's defence interests.
“We need to maintain our defence shield and ensure that the waters of the Aegean remain calm,” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told Alpha 9.89 FM.
He said that the country's defence interests remained the same, regardless of the economic crisis.
When asked if the leasing of the frigates and aircraft was linked to the visit on Tuesday by the French president, Francois Hollande, and his expression of interest in gas and oil exploration in the Aegean, Kedikoglou replied "only in the sense that exploration would be more efficient [and] faster when there is a calm atmosphere in the Aegean".
Ahead of his visit, the DPA news agency said Hollande would to try to convince Greek officials to lease two FREMM multi-purpose frigates for the proposed exploratio.
The government's decision came in for intense criticism on Wednesday by Syriza, the main opposition party, who said it was contrary to the government's aim to reduce military expenditure.
Syrzia defence spokesman Thodoris Dritsas said that military leaders told the party in June that it did not require any new equipment but was in need for fuel, ammunition and spare parts.
A report published on Monday by theStockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found Greece to be Europe's largest importer of conventional arms and the world's tenth largest