Greece Moves to Prevent Accidental Conflict With Turkey

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo)

ATHENS – Amid fears an itchy trigger finger by a fighter pilot or warship Captain could start a shooting war, Greece is planning proposals to ease tensions in the Aegean where Turkey has plans to drill for oil and gas and has repeatedly violated Greek airspace.

They will be included in so-called Confidence Building Measures (CBM's) in talks with Turkey from Feb. 17-21, said Kathimerini, reporting others will reserve sea areas for submarines, with Turkey taking whole blocks for naval exercises.

Talks have been going on as well with NATO, the paper said, referring to the defense alliance to which both countries belong and which has refused to intervene over repeated Turkish violations of Greek airspace and waters. Turkey also has become more aggressive, denying Greece sovereign waters and the Continental Shelf and making a deal with Libya dividing the seas between them and planning to hunt for energy off Crete as it's already doing off Cyprus.

Greece also wants to activate a hotline between the Hellenic Tactical Air Force Command headquarters in Larissa and Turkey’s First Air Force Command in Eskisehir to allow for quick communication in case fighter jets engage in real and not mock dogfights.

Greek fighter pilots frequently intercept Turkish jets but there are worries what would happen if someone fired, which could set off retaliation and escalate into a conflict.

The plans also allow for any incidents on the land border at the Evros River, used by human traffickers that Turkey lets operate to send refugees and migrants into Greece, to be solved by local governments. , with the aim of allowing for direct communication in case of serious incidents involving the two countries’ military jets.

The package will moreover include proposed measures that will enable any incidents in the Evros border region to be resolved at the local government level.

The Greek delegation is also expected to raise the issue of navigational telexes (NAVTEX) by the Antalya Hydrographic Station that cancel out directives by Greece regarding the Eastern Mediterranean.

Furthermore, it will bring up the issue of violations of Greek air space and territorial waters, as well as Turkish overflights in the Aegean – with 78 recorded since the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, Greek and Turkish Defense Ministers Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Hulusi Akar met briefly on the sidelines of a NATO Summit in Brussels on Wednesday.

Panagiotopoulos reportedly stressed the need to keep channels of communication open, and for Turkey to refrain from actions that fuel tension.