Turkey rejects Greece’s accusations of illegal military flights: Athens ‘started tension’

Turkish F-16s

Turkey rejected on Thursday Greece’s accusations that Turkish military aircraft conducted unauthorized flights over Greek islands, pointing the finger of the blame at Athens over “provocative flights” violating airspace controlled by Ankara.

Greece made Wednesday a formal protest against Turkey, accusing it of conducting unauthorised military flights over Greek islands.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Tanju Bilgic said on Thursday Greece’s statements “do not reflect the truth”.

The official instead said that Ankara’s military flights were in response to provocations and violations by Athens.

Greece revoked Turkey’s planned participation in a May 9, Greece-hosted NATO air drill known as “Tiger Meet,” saying Turkey was “neither an ally, nor a friend.” Greece also suspended confidence-building negotiations due to begin between Greek and Turkish diplomats next month.

The snub came as the Greek Foreign Ministry summoned Ankara’s top envoy late Wednesday to protest the record number of violations over the Aegean Sea. He was called in again on Thursday as Turkish warplanes buzzed over a rash of popular holiday islands, including Rhodes and Samos, staging dangerous aerial dogfights.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday he contacted NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to report the airspace violation by Turkey.

“I spoke earlier with the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg to inform him of the latest provocative behavior of the Turkish armed forces violating Greek airspace, dangerously overflying Greek Islands, such as Samos, Lesvos, Chios, Karpathos, to name but a few. And I made it clear to Secretary General Stoltenberg that this type of behavior by a NATO ally in the Southeast flank of the Alliance is simply unacceptable,” Mitsotakis said during a press conference with his Finnish counterpart.

He added: “It undermines European security as well as the unity of purpose of NATO at a time when amongst NATO members it is indispensable for all of us to remain united, as we face the continued aggression of Russia in Ukraine.”

Neighbours and fellow-NATO members Greece and Turkey have had a series of air and sea border disputes.

Tensions between the two countries increased since 2020 thanks to Ankara’s plans to explore for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean.