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Greece ready to spend more to boost its armed forces, finance minister says

ATHENS, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Greece is ready to spend part of its cash reserves to support its armed forces as early as this year, the country’s finance minister said on Monday, after years of belt-tightening in defence spending.

During its decade-long debt crisis which erupted in late 2009, Greece slashed its defence spending under the terms of three international bailouts that helped it stay afloat. Greece emerged from its third bailout in August 2018.

In an interview with Alpha TV, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said that his mandate includes “supporting the armed forces’ prevention force”.

He made the comments as tensions between Greece and its NATO Turkey have escalated over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean region.

“We, the finance ministry, will do everything possible to support the government’s decisions in this area,” Staikouras said.

He said that the government’s strategy does not only concern arm purchases and will unfold over the next years starting in 2020, without providing a figure on the money that could be invested or any further details.

“It depends on the government’s and the defence ministry’s orders on certain priorities,” he said.

Greece has created a cash buffer of 34 billion euros ($40.6 billion) from unused bailout funds and money raised from markets. The country was looking forward to an economic recovery this year but the coronavirus pandemic has turned its expectations upside down and the government now sees its economy shrinking up to 10%. ($1 = 0.8372 euros)

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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