With once anti-American Greek Premier and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras reaching out to the United States for closer ties and even an expanded military presence, Turkey responded by sending a flurry of fighter jets over the Aegean.
That came after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell said Greece was a “fantastic ally” in the region and backed Cyprus’ gas exploration rights as Turkish warships are trying to keep foreign energy companies -including the U.S.’ ExxonMobil – from drilling for oil and gas off the island.
Some 15 armed Turkish fighter jets conducted 107 violations in the northeast, southeast and central Aegean, as well as two overflights over the islets of Anthropofagos and Makronisi in the eastern Aegean on Dec. 17, said Kathimerini, engaging in four mock dogfights with Greek jets, said the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA).
It was the most military activity from Turkey since January, 2017 when Defense Minister Panos Kammenos threw wreaths from a helicopter into the sea near the rocky, disputed islet of Imia to remember the loss of three Greek servicemen who died in a helicopter crash at the height of a crisis between the two countries in 1996.
As relations worsen with Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is still furious that Greece wouldn’t return eight servicemen who fled a failed coup against in July, 2016, in which they said they took no part, Greece has been looking more toward the U.S.