Fighter jets from the militaries of Greece and Turkey were involved in 16 mock dogfights, following the violation of Athens airspace by Turkish planes.
The incidents reportedly occurred on December 17, against a backdrop of a rising conflict over territorial claims in the Aegean between the two nations. At stake are the delimitation of territorial waters, airspace, exclusion zones and differing claims over several small islands.
According to the Stars and Stripes, Greek air force pilots rushed to intercept the Turkish jets as they entered the country’s airspace a total of 40 times on Tuesday. , The unofficial newspaper of the United States Armed Forces (but supported by the government) cited Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay declaring that his nation could deploy military forces to the eastern Mediterranean ,accompanied by armed drones to northern Cyprus. Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos has adamantly declared that the area is under the jurisdiction of his country’s defense establishment.
As tensions between Greece and Turkey escalate, Washington has increased military ties with Athens and is considering the imposition of sanctions against Istanbul over its military invasion in northern Syria and purchase of the S-400 advanced anti-aircraft defense system from the Russian Federation.
In a related dispute, the Turkish Navy recently deported an Israeli research ship from Cyprus’ territorial waters – concurrent with Ankara’s insistence that it be granted the power of approval over Jerusalem’s agreement with Athens and Nicosia to lay down a natural gas pipeline to Europe in the Mediterranean Sea.