“We are considering sending a group of combat soldiers to Sahel,” said Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos adding that there has been a relevant request by France. “In case Turkey tries to attack and we ask for help from France, the French troops will be there, they must be there,” the minister stressed with reference to the Greek-French defense agreement.
In an interview with news website newsbomb.gr, Panagiotopoulos revealed that the political and military leadership of the country are considering to send an Armed Forces group of combat soldiers to Sahel to assist French troops in the war zone located between the Sahara and the coastal areas of West Africa. Operation Barkhane is an ongoing anti-insurgent operation that started on August 1, 2014, and is led by the French military against Islamist groups in Africa’s Sahel region.
The troop deployment is apparently in the context of the Greek-French defense cooperation agreement that included also the purchase of French frigates Belharra.
Speaking about the benefits of the agreement except for the frigates purchase, the Greek Defense Minister stressed that the defense assistance in case of an attack from a third country, is considered as given by both sides.
“If Turkey tries to attack and we ask for help from France, based on the military agreement we have signed, then the French forces will be there, they must be there,” Panagiotopoulos underlined.
To a question, whether in order for the French to assist Greece, Athens must also have sent troops to the Sahel, the minister pointed out that “although it is not necessary, a request has been made by the French side and we must assist.”
“Greece is already considering sending a group of combat soldiers to the Sahel. These are not military advisers, we already have such in the area, these are permanent combat members of the Armed Forces,” Defense Minister Panagiotopoulos said.
he added that sending selected men to the Sahel does not stem from the Greek-French agreement that was signed, but from the wider alliance between Athens and Paris.
“We are for them and they are for us,” Panagiotopoulos stressed.