Turkey’s Erdoğan stoking tensions in Aegean - Kathimerini

Remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan this week that his country will respond every time Greek fighter jets fly over the Aegea are seen as “completely unacceptable” and part of a deliberate effort by Ankara to stoke tensions between NATO allies, Greek newspaper Kathimerini said, citing the Greek Foreign Ministry.

Turkish jets are only responding to the activities of their Greek counterparts, who violate Turkish airspace, Erdoğan told Turkey’s Habertürk news site, amid almost daily violations of Greek airspace by Turkish jets, Kathimerini said.

“[The Greek jets] are not tourist airplanes,” Erdoğan said, adding “When sometimes our planes take off in the Aegean, you see planes also taking off from Greece. But when Greece’s planes take off, we launch ours.”

Greece’s Foreign Ministry responded by issuing a statement saying it was unacceptable to compare the violation of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets with Greek efforts to intercept them, Kathimerini said.

“Turkey’s effort to equate the flights of Turkish military aircraft that violate Greece’s national sovereignty with the identification and interception missions the Hellenic Air Force carries out in defense of national sovereignty is completely unacceptable,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a press release while calling on Turkey to “to realize that international law must be respected by all and in its entirety.”

Two pairs of Turkish F-16s flew over the eastern Aegean islands of Oinousses and Panagia following Erdoğan’s statements, the Greek newspaper said, in what can only be interpreted as a ‘’sign from Ankara that not only will it continue to violate Greek airspace but will it do so over inhabited islands.’’

Greek and Turkish foreign ministers Giorgos Katrougalos and Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu are set to meet in the upcoming days in order to discuss the easing of tensions in the Aegean Sea, among others.

The ministers had agreed in Brussels in February to draft a framework for confidence building measures to ease tensions in the Aegean.