- Athens eyeing possibility of placing Patriot anti-missile battery in Kingdom to combat Houthi threats
- Greek FM willing to visit Riyadh to conclude agreement
ATHENS: Greece is eyeing the possibility of stationing a Patriot anti-missile battery on Saudi soil to help the Kingdom boost its air defenses against missile attacks on its critical infrastructure, mainly from Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen.
Speaking in front of the Foreign Relations and Defense Committee in the Greek Parliament, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said the two countries may be close to signing a Status of Forces Agreement that will allow Greek military personnel to be stationed in Saudi Arabia for as long as the Patriot battery remains in the Kingdom.
He insisted that the Patriot is a defensive system, not an offensive one, and expressed his willingness to visit Riyadh soon in order to conclude the agreement.
Dendias had discussed the Patriot’s transport and the enhancement of bilateral defense ties with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in January 2020 when the latter visited Athens.
The transport was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the two men discussed ways to speed up the delivery on the margins of the Philia Forum in Athens earlier this month, Dendias said.
Turkey’s assertive policies in the eastern Mediterranean have forced Greece to engage actively with Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, diplomatically and militarily.
In November, Greece and the UAE signed a mutual defense treaty to protect against common threats, while the two countries have held joint military drills.
Discussions between Riyadh and Athens on the delivery of a Patriot battery started during the last days of the previous Greek government.
The plan is for the Patriot to be accompanied by around 40 Greek officers. Riyadh will cover the cost of transport and of upgrading the battery.
The Patriot is considered one of the best anti-missile systems in the world. Its radar can cover an area of up to 170 km, while it can engage targets in a range of up to 150 km.