Tension Rises Over Turkish Live Fire Military Exercise in Aegean

FILE - Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos flying over Imia. Photo: Eurokinissi, File.

ATHENS – A Turkish live fire military exercise in Greek waters of the eastern Aegean Sea has ramped up anxiety between the countries again.

Speaking to Kathimerini newspaper on condition of anonymity, a Greek diplomatic source described the incident in the area around the eastern Aegean island of Farmakonisi, as “a grave violation of international law.”

“Turkey’s unacceptable act raises serious concerns about the potential consequences of its behavior on the stability of the wider region,” the source said.

Both sides are members of NATO, which has said or done nothing to stop Turkish incursions into Greek waters or violations of air space with F-16 fighter jets.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is still livid a Greek court refused to extradite eight Turkish soldiers who fled a failed coup against him. They said they hadn’t taken part in it and the Greek court said they wouldn’t get a fair trial as Erdogan is seeking the death penalty against conspirators.

According to the Defense Ministry, Turkish authorities issued a navigational telex, or Navtex, inorming of a military exercise with live ammunition within Greek territorial waters, east of Farmakonisi on Feb. 17.

The Greek Defense Ministry responded by issuing a Navtex turning down the Turkish notification, saying it covered Greek territorial waters but it was ignored.

Turkish authorities have previously issued similar notifications without executing them.
The Greek gunboat Nikiforos was sent to the area to monitor the Turkish Kusadasi vessel, which fired a volley of shots from small caliber guns up to 20 minutes.

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who has been antagonizing Turkey, reportedly monitored developments from Munich at the an annual international Security Conference. Kammenos reportedly briefed Greece’s allies and partners over the incident, Kathimerini said.

New Democracy, Greece’s major opposition party, urged a meeting of the country’s National Council of Foreign Policy although Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, reluctant to go up against Erdogan, fearing Turkey will unleash more refugees and migrants onto Greek islands, has remained largely out of the picture.

“We are deeply concerned to witness Turkey’s insistence on provoking … and maintaining a climate of tension in the Aegean,” New Democracy Shadow Foreign Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said in a letter to Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.