Erdogan Says Blue Homeland Military Drill Not Aimed at Greece

Αssociated press

(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

As Turkish and Greek defense ministers were trying to cool down tensions over fears of a conflict in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, the Blue Homeland military exercise in the waters shouldn’t cause concern, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

He said that the “Greeks appeared to be frightened of” the ongoing massive operation but added that the “exercise is not directed against Greece,” Turkish media reported, as he didn’t explain what is for otherwise.

He spoke after a pair of Turkish F-16s violated Greek airspace east of Amorgos island in the central Aegean, the latest in a long line of provocations by Turkey, but there was no bellicose response from Greece although it appeared Turkey was trying to show force aimed at Greece and at Cyprus, where it’s been trying to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas.

Speaking to TV stations, Kanal 24 and TV-360, Erdogan also added that Turkey is in contact with companies drilling for gas in the Eastern Mediterranean see if they can do the same for Turkey, in a challenge t Cyprus and Italian, French and US companies doing energy hunts.

Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu were set to meet twice later in March to keep talking in a bid not to let the tensions get out of hand .

Erdogan has since a failed coup attempt against him in July, 2016 been trying to get Greece to extradite eight Turkish servicemen who fled in a helicopter and are seeking asylum, saying they took no part in the actions against him.

That has kept tensions high and now Greece is dropping a military inquiry into the arrest by Turkish authorities last year of two Greek soldiers on border patrol in northeastern Greece who were detained for months in a Turkish jail before being released.

Defense Minsister Evangelos Apostolakis, in a response to a question from the major opposition New Democracy, said that investigation is being archived and there now won’t be any criminal or disciplinary action to be taken over the incident and with the soldiers being promoted this year.

Apostolakis, who was Greece's Armed Forces chief at the time of the incident, responded that any findings from the investigation into the actions of the two soldiers that led to their arrest are classified and closed.