Greece okays $1.68 billion defense deal with Israel

Defense Ministry says 20-year agreement will see Elbit Systems establish flight school for Greek air force, sell and upgrade training aircraft

Israeli Air Force M-346 training aircraft. (Elbit Systems)

The Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that the Greek government has approved a $1.68 billion agreement to purchase training aircraft from Israel and for an Israeli defense contractor to establish a flight school for Greece’s air force.

The deal, which still must be signed by the two countries’ defense ministries, will see Elbit Systems set up and operate a training school for the Hellenic Air Force. It also includes the sale of 10 Aermacchi M-346 aircraft, known in Israel as the Lavi, and for Elbit to upgrade and maintain Greece’s T-6 training planes.

The Defense Ministry said the agreement, which it called “the largest defense procurement agreement between the two countries to date,” was for 20 years. It didn’t specify when the deal would be inked, but said the Greek government’s decision “enables the parties to move forward in the negotiations” before the signing.

“This agreement reflects the excellent and developing relations we have with Greece. It is a long-term partnership that will serve the interests of both Israel and Greece, create hundreds of jobs in both countries, and promote stability in the Mediterranean,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz was quoted as saying in a statement.

Gantz said he spoke with his Greek counterpart, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, by phone after the deal was approved, touting the growing defense ties between Jerusalem and Athens.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, Cyprus Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides, center, and Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, right, ahead of a meeting in the Cypriot capital Nicosia, Nov. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

During a November visit to Cyprus, Gantz inked a deal with his Cypriot and Greek counterparts to boost military cooperation.

The three countries have forged close ties amid regional tension in the Eastern Mediterranean over offshore gas exploitation rights, and are partners in a project to bring gas from fields in Israeli and potentially other nations’ waters through an undersea pipeline to Europe’s mainland.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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