ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s prime minister told his Turkish counterpart Monday that airspace violations over the Aegean Sea must stop as they increase the risk of a military accident in the sea between the two NATO allies.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim, who was on a one-day visit to Greece, agreed to maintain open channels of communication between them in an effort to reduce potential military tensions arising from airspace violations.
Greece and Turkey stand far apart on many fronts, including Aegean Sea boundaries, undersea exploration rights and the war-divided island of Cyprus. Athens says Turkish fighter jets frequently violate the airspace under its civil aviation control, and often violate its national airspace.
“I stressed to Mr. Yildirim that this situation isn’t helping at all, and that these infringements cannot continue,” Tsipras said during joint statements to the media after the two men met for talks. “(They) increase the risk of an accident.”
Yildirim said Greece also engaged in violations and flyovers in the Aegean Sea.
“(Tsipras) mentioned . violations and flyovers in the Aegean. Of course these are not one-sided. The violations are mutual,” Yildirim said. “Our aim is to decrease these violations to a minimum and to not escalate the issue.”
Another source of tensions between the two neighbors recently has been the fate of eight Turkish servicemen who sought asylum in Greece following last year’s failed coup in Turkey. Ankara says the helicopter crewmen had participated in the coup, an accusation the men deny.
Greece’s high court has refused to extradite the eight, who pleaded they would not face a fair trial in Turkey amid a widespread post-coup attempt crackdown that has seen about 50,000 people arrested and more than 100,000 suspended from their jobs.
Asked about Greece’s refusal to extradite the servicemen, Tsipras noted that his country’s judicial system was independent of its political system.
“We respect the decision the judiciary has made but we hope the coup-plotters don’t deliver a blow to Turkey-Greece relations,” Yildirim said.
Greece and Turkey stand far apart on many fronts, including Aegean Sea boundaries and undersea exploration rights, the war-divided island of Cyprus and the servicemen.
Greece’s high court has refused to extradite the eight men to Turkey, sparking strong protests from Ankara.