Greece denies war planes harassed Turkish ship in Aegean

Turkey accused Greece of harassing a research ship in the Aegean Sea on Tuesday, prompting a denial from Athens, which said none of its planes were in the area.

The TCG Çeşme was engaged in hydrographic surveying activities to the west of the Greek island of Limnos when one of four Greek fighter jets dropped a chaff cartridge from two miles away, the state-run Anadolu news agency said, citing unidentified Turkish sources. The ship gave the necessary response, they said, without providing details.

The Greek Defence Ministry said none of its aircraft were in the immediate vicinity of the ship, according to news website the Greek Reporter. It said Greece was holding military training exercises in the northern Aegean in another area near Limnos and off the island of Agios Efstratios.

No Greek jets flew over the TCG Çeşme, and there was no response from Turkish forces, the Greek Reporter said, citing sources at the ministry.

Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the incident was another example of frequent military harassment by Greece. Governing Justice and Development Party spokesman Ömer Çelik labelled the incident as “provocative”, according to Anadolu. He said the incident was not conducive to the positive atmosphere the two neighbours are seeking via exploratory talks over disputes in the Aegean and Mediterranean, which resumed in January after a five-year pause.

The TCG Çeşme is scheduled to remain in the northern Aegean until March 2, according to a statement by the Turkish navy last week.

On Monday, Turkey’s Defence Ministry announced a series of naval exercises in the Aegean and Mediterranean named Blue Homeland 2021, which will be held between Feb. 25 and March 7.

The drills will involve a wide array of military assets, including 82 warships, marine units, drones and coast guard vessels, the ministry said.