Greek parliament to vote this week on Rafale jets purchase

A French Rafale fighter jet demonstrates the interception of a Belgian air force transport plane as they fly over France, January 14, 2020 as part of NATO drills to deter Russian planes from entering allied airspace. Picture taken January 14, 2020. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/File Photo

ATHENS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Greek lawmakers will vote this week on a bill opening the way for the purchase of 18 Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets from France for a total of 2.5 billion euros ($3.04 billion).

The agreement, expected to be signed by both countries' ministers in Athens this month, is part of Greece's plan to boost its defence capacity during an ongoing dispute with neighbouring Turkey on energy resources in the Mediterranean.

For the purchase and maintenance of six new and 12 used Rafale jets, Greece will spend 1.5 billion euros this year, about 400 million euros annually in 2022-23, 67 million euros in 2024 and 34 million euros in 2025.

The debate in parliamentary committees will start on Tuesday with a vote planned by the end of the week.

After a decade-long financial crisis that sapped almost a quarter of its national output, Greece was hoping for strong growth in 2020, but the coronavirus outbreak dashed its hopes. Greece projects 4.8 growth this year after an economic contraction of about 10% in 2020.

Despite the hardship, the government has said it wants to invest in its armed forces, hire staff and acquire new frigates, helicopters and drones, and upgrade its F-16 fleet.

Parliament will also vote on a bill extending the country's western territorial waters to 12 from six miles this month, the government has said.

After a four-year hiatus, Greece and Turkey are expected to resume exploratory talks on the demarcation of maritime zones on Jan. 25.

($1 = 0.8228 euros)

Reporting by Renee Maltezou, editing by Ed Osmond

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