ATHENS – Greece’s hopes that renewing a military cooperation deal with the United States would bring backing against Turkish provocations took a blow with a report that President Joe Biden’s administration doesn’t agree that Turkish jets were violating Greek airspace.
Citing a report prepared by the State Department and submitted to Congress, Kathimerini said the US doesn’t go along with Greece claiming 10 nautical miles of airspace, but only 6 miles in accordance with sea boundaries.
The US earlier said it stood by Greece’s sovereignty but Biden is also trying to convince Congress to agree to sell more F-16’s to Turkey that could be used against Greece in a conflict.
That’s despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government buying Russian S-400 missile defense systems that threaten Greece and reports he wants to buy more.
Buying the systems got Turkey barred from purchasing US-made F-35 fighter jets that Greece also wants but Erdogan said he still believes Turkey will get them and he wants the US to upgrade his Air Force too.
Greece has said that Turkish F-16’s repeatedly violating Greek airspace, bringing frequent mock fights between pilots of the two countries, but Turkey said those incursions aren’t over Greek territory, the US now agreeing.
“Under international law, a country’s airspace coincides with its territorial sea. The U.S. thus recognizes airspace up to 6 nautical miles consistent with the territorial sea. Greece and the U.S. do not share a view on the extent of Greece’s airspace,” said Washington, the report added.
That was quickly picked up by Turkey’s pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah that is essentially a propaganda mouthpiece for Erdogan, whose government has jailed journalists and tries to stifle any dissent against him.
“Greece and its neighbors have not agreed on boundary delimitation in those areas where their lawful maritime entitlements overlap,” the State Department reportedly added, again siding with Turkey that the waters Greece claims are disputed, as is the airspace now.
The lack of such delimitation means there is no clarity on the extent of Greece’s territorial sea and corresponding airspace in these areas which would mean that Turkish fighter jets are not in Greek airspace under the US interpretation.
“We encourage all countries to respect the sovereign airspace of other countries and to operate state aircraft with due regard for the safety of navigation of civil aircraft. “Where disagreements exist over the limits of a country’s territorial airspace, we urge coordination and discussion, not actions that could lead to deadly accidents,” the statement added.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç earlier said that on April 26-28, the Greek Air Force carried out flights close to the Turkish coast and violated Turkish airspace, adding to the tension between the countries.
“The Turkish Air Force reciprocated to these provocative flights and violations in accordance with their rules of engagement,” Bilgiç said. Greece has accused Turkey of unauthorized flights over Greek islands.