ATHENS – Reports have emerged that Greek troops fired warning tracer rounds at a Turkish helicopter that flew over over the islet of Ro, near the Dodecanese island of Kastellorizo, 1.25 miles off the Turkish coast in latest escalation of tension between the countries.
The helicopter was flying without its lights on at a low altitude at 11:30 p.m. on April 9, Kathimerini said, but the initial reports didn’t mention it was fired on
Defense Ministry sources told the paper that the rules of engagement were implemented and that Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was in constant contact with the head of the General Army Command (GES) and the Chief of Hellenic Armed Forces General Staff (GEETHA) when it happened and that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was briefed.
Greek defense officials reportedly dismissed the incident as part of what it believes is designed to boost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity domestically and not to provoke a shooting conflict.
While Tsipras’ office said the incident was minor – even with shots fired – it added that a “night flight with the lights out is part of Turkey’s tactic of provocation from a safe distance which, however, carries the risk of an accident.”
There was no immediate comment from Erdogan although reports in the Turkish daily Hurriyet cited sources from the office of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim who denied it occurred.
In an earlier Tweet, the main opposition New Democracy’s shadow defense minister Vassilis Kikilias criticized the ministry for failing to provide details about the incident in which the shooting at the helicopter was not mentioned.
Meanwhile, Turkish fighter jets are continuing their regular violations of Greek airspace, following incursions on April 8 by two planes, breaking a customary Easter moratorium against such incidents that had been previously observed.
That happened when the Turkish F-16’s flew over Oinousses, a cluster of small islands in the northeastern Aegean, coming after a visit there by Kammenos to a military outpost.
Five new violations of Greek airspace and six infringements of the Athens Flight Information Region by Turkish aircraft were recorded by the Hellenic National Defence General Staff (HNDGS) on April 10, officials said.
Α Turkish CN-235 transport aircraft and a helicopter entered Greek airspace five times and two Turkish F-16 jets flew over the northeastern and southeastern Aegean before being chased away by Greek fighter jets who often engage their rivals in mock dogfights.