ATHENS – After making a deal with Libya to divide the seas between them, including around some Greek islands, Turkey took to the air over Greek waters on Dec. 17, sending in so many fighter jets that Greek pilots engaged them in 16 mock dogfights to drive them off.
With tension getting near the boiling point between the countries, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay warned that military forces could be sent into the East Mediterranean after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would send ships to drill for energy off Crete in coming months.
Turkish jets conducted 40 airspace violations, Greek defense sources who weren’t named told Kathimerini, with NATO – the defense alliance to which both belong – saying it would not intervene as Turkey keeps invading Greek waters and airspace with impunity.
The violations apparently came in response to Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos saying that Greece has military supremacy in the Aegean, ratcheting up worries of a possible conflict with the European Union offering Greece only lip service.
There were reports of five Turkish Navy vessels south of Kastellorizo as Oktay said that, “If necessary, Turkey will send forces, drill in the Eastern Mediterranean (and) conduct cross-border operations.”
Pair of Turkish F-16s repeatedly fly over Greek islands on Wednesday
A pair of Turkish F-16s violated Greek airspace and repeatedly flew over Greek islands in the space of 25 minutes on Wednesday, according to the Hellenic National Defence General Staff (HNDGS). The two planes entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) without submitting flight plans and proceeded to fly four times over the island of Panaghia, at a height ranging from 6,000 to 23,000 feet, and seven times over the island of Oinousses, at a height ranging from 500 to 26,000 feet.
The overflights were carried out in quick succession, between 13:35 and 13:59 on Wednesday afternoon.
A second pair of Turkish F-16s also entered Greek airspace at 13:46 and flew over the island of Ro island at 23,000 feet, the announcement said.
According to HNDGS, in all cases the Turkish military aircraft were recognised and intercepted by Greek fighter planes, in accordance with international rules.