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Greek parliament approves purchase of Rafale fighters from France

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A French Air Force Rafale fighter performs during a presentation of the French Air and Space Army at the BA 105 Evreux-Fauville Air Force Base, France, October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

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ATHENS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Greek lawmakers approved the purchase of 18 Dassault-made Rafale jets from France for 2.5 billion euros ($3.04 billion) on Thursday, in a deal due to be signed by the Greek and French defence ministers later this month.

Athens has agreed to acquire advanced fighter aircraft as it moves ahead with plans to beef up its military capacity during a dispute with neighbouring Turkey over energy resources in the Mediterranean.

The agreement for six new and 12 used Rafale jets is expected to be signed by France and Greece in Athens this month and the first deliveries are expected during the first half of the year, the government has said.

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' conservative government has said it wants to invest in the armed forces, increasing personnel, acquiring new frigates, helicopters and drones, and upgrading its existing fleet of F-16 fighters.

Parliament is also expected to vote next week on a bill extending Greece's western territorial waters in the Ionian Sea to 12 nautical miles from six, Mitsotakis told local ANT1 TV.

While that vote does not directly affect the eastern and southern Aegean, where Greece and Turkey have competing claims, Athens has said it reserves the right under international law to a 12-mile maritime limit across its whole territory.

Turkey has said it would regard staking such a claim in the Aegean as a "casus belli" or reason for war.

In a possible sign of willingness to seek a more conciliatory approach, officials from both countries are due to meet on Jan. 25 for talks. read more

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Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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