Greece has frozen plans for a new round of defense-level talks with Turkey in a confidence-building dialogue between the two neighbours following a series of flights by Turkish fighter planes in the eastern Aegean, Kathimerini reported. Turkey, too has accused Greece of airspace violations. The Turkish state media, citing security sources, said Greek planes violated Turkish Aegean airspace 30 times in three days.
Sources said that Hellenic Air Force planes violated Turkish airspace six times on April 26th and the next day committed 22 violations in the sky near the Turkish cities of Didim, Datca and Dalaman. The violations continued yesterday, as Turkish planes reciprocated the actions of the Greek elements, TRT Haber reports.
Cited sources accuse Greece of seeking to escalate tensions in the Aegean Sea and accuse Turkey of being the violator. However, according to them, the radar recordings refute the claims of the Greek side.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said that Athens’ allegations of Turkish fighter jets violating its airspace are untrue.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis yesterday called on Turkey to stop violating Greek airspace, a behaviour he said undermines NATO’s unity in a difficult time after Russia invaded Ukraine.
A day earlier, the Greek Foreign Ministry handed a note to the Turkish ambassador to Athens regarding overflights of Turkish fighter jets in the Aegean Sea, claiming they were an illegal and “unacceptable provocation”.
According to the Greek newspaper Proto Tema, Turkish fighter jets committed 168 violations in one day, entering Greek airspace 118 times. There were 41 low-flying cases over populated areas of the islands of Samos, Imia, Kalymnos, Rhodes and Kastelorizo. It is being discussed because of the current situation in Greece to activate missile defense on islands in the Aegean Sea, Proto Tema wrote, citing sources from the Greek Ministry of Defense.
Negotiations have been postponed to the future, Greek government sources said. Meanwhile, the Kathimerini newspaper learned that an order was issued yesterday to prepare the missile defenses of the islands, in particular, the Osa-K and ASRAD systems. Mitsotakis said he had briefed NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on the situation.
Turkey and Greece’s territorial disputes
Territorial disputes between Turkey and Greece have been going on for many years.
Greece and Turkey are two NATO member countries that have an unresolved conflict in Cyprus. In 1975, Turkey established the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on the territory of Cyprus. Only Turkey recognized its independence. The conflict itself began 3 years after the island gained independence from Great Britain in 1960. The guarantor of independence is Greece, Britain and Turkey. Ethnic Greeks and Turks live on the island.
There are also disputes between the two countries over the territory of the Aegean Sea and the airspace above it.
Both sides’ harsh statements and actions on this issue have regularly led to an escalation of tension.
Recently, the situation in the eastern Mediterranean has become more complicated due to the intensification of Ankara’s exploration activities in this area. Turkey conducts oil and gas exploration in the waters that Greece and Cyprus consider their exclusive economic zone. This causes friction between Ankara and a number of EU countries.
In October 2021, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar warned Greeks against an arms race. In his opinion, Greek politicians are escalating tension by purchasing weapons. Greece is actively strengthening its military, buying weapons from France and concluding a defense treaty with them.
“You cannot gain an advantage against Turkey by such attempts, give up this effort… It hurts the economy through wasteful spending for the love of armaments and aims at the well-being of the Greek people. Reasonable people in Greece should see this… We have taken every precaution against it, and we accept them. We are very determined and competitive in this regard,” Akar said.
In June 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis agreed at a meeting in Brussels to put 2020 tensions in the Aegean in the past. A private meeting between them lasted about an hour on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels.
Greece and Turkey agreed to keep the channels of communication open and not to repeat the scenes of tension in the Aegean that were in the summer of 2020. Finally, it was decided that probing contacts between Greece and Turkey should proceed as usual, as well as the strengthening measures should be implemented with confidence, said the media citing sources.
In the same year, Greece and Turkey had resumed the so-called probing contacts between the two countries, which should provide a basis for negotiations on the problem of delimitation of maritime zones (sea shelf and EEZ).