ANKARA – As envoys from both countries talked away how to ratchet down tension, Turkey sent more fighter jets into Greek airspace, with some 40 violations recorded by seven jets in the north and southeast Aegean, further testing Greece’s sovereignty and resolve.
Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had said that “goodwill” might convince Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop provocations in the air and the East Mediterranean and Aegean where he said his country will drill for oil and gas off Crete under a deal with Libya dividing the seas between them.
Five of the violations led to mock dogfights between Greek and Turkish jets, said Kathimerini, reporting that 18 were over the Ro, Kastellorizo and Strongyli in the southeastern Aegean just after a visit there by the Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff Lieutenant-General Georgios Kambas.
As that was unfolding, the acting Director General at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Cagatay Erciyes, posted a comment on Twitter challenging Greece’s sovereign rights, with an attached photo indicating Kastellorizo near Turkey – while Turkey was trying to talk peace.
“It is ridiculous to believe that a small island of 10 km2 which is 2 km (from Turkey) and 570 km away (from Greece) can create a 40,000 km2 maritime zone in the Mediterranean,” Erciyes said in a translated comment on Twitter, attaching a map.
After someone tweeted a challenge, he said the claim was more than just opinion, indicating that Turkey believes it is backed by international laws the country doesn’t recognize unless in its favor.
“It is a terminology / common language used by and before [the International Court of Justice] according to international law to identify the situation of such islands in maritime boundary delimitation,” he wrote.
While Turkey was breaking international law with the airspace violations – NATO, to which both belong said it wants no part of their simmering duels – Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was speaking in Brussels at the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council about Turkey’s deal with Libya.
He said that Greece “supports the de-escalation of tension on the basis of international law and dialogue,” for which Erdogan has shown only disdain and contempt and continuing his provocations, including having his ships drill for energy in Cypriot waters.
Dendias said the Turkey-Libya deal must be “ascertained to be invalid and nonexistent,” which he said just keeps increasing the anxiety and fears of a conflict, with Turkey persisting anyway.