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Athens (AFP) Feb 28, 2013
French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Greece and France will sign a defence collaboration agreement, following reports that Athens would borrow navy frigates from Paris.
"This (broader) agreement will further include a more specific one, to cover the operational needs of the Greek armed forces, notably the navy and more specifically the frigates," Le Drian said after a meeting with his Greek counterpart Panos Panagiotopoulos.
He said a Franco-Greek committee would be set up to work out the details, but did not specify when the countries would ink the agreement.
Le Drian, who also met President Carolos Papoulias, thanked Greece for its contribution to the Mali war effort.
Greece is contributing four army officers to the EU Training Mission in Mali, according to its defence ministry.
"France and Greece have always enjoyed great solidarity during difficult times... and President Hollande's recent visit here highlighted this privileged partnership," Le Drian said.
On the sidelines of the French president's visit to Athens earlier this month, a Greek government source provided AFP with details of the loan of the two frigates.
The FREMM-type frigates will be included in the Greek navy and could assist a search for hydrocarbons which Greece hopes to start in coming months, according to the source.
Greece is also considering the loan of four navy support aircraft, the source added.
The heavily indebted country has in the past curtailed extensive arms purchases from the United States, Germany and France because of the economic crisis.
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