Reports that a group of Turkish military commandos tried to cross from Turkey to the island of Symi, in the southeastern Aegean, put the Greek armed forces on alert on Wednesday amid fears that ties between Greece and Turkey could be tested in the wake of a failed coup in the neighboring country.
The Greek Coast Guard was on alert from around 11 a.m. when a group of inflatable dinghies and other vessels were seen departing from Datca, on the Turkish coast, in the direction of Symi.
Confused intelligence referred to the presence of around 20 Turkish commandos on those vessels.
Athens had been anticipating a possible attempt by participants in the failed coup to come to Greece and so took the reports seriously.
Later in the day, citing Turkish military officials, Reuters reported that Turkish F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to check reports that missing Turkish coast guard vessels had appeared in Greek waters in the Aegean.
Some Turkish military hardware was stolen and used in the failed coup but Turkish government officials have insisted that no military equipment remains unaccounted for.
Later on Wednesday, the Turkish interior ministry denied claims that rebel soldiers might have “hijacked” a vessel to flee to Greece, Reuters reported.
Sources of the Hellenic Air Force confirmed that two Turkish F-16s had conducted patrols but they said they remained in Turkish air space.
The Greek Coast Guard monitored the movements of the Turkish vessels, which remained in Turkish waters. Also, a contingent of the Greek Police was dispatched to Symi to conduct checks there.
The developments came after a statement by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on the anniversary of the Turkish occupation of Cyprus prompted a terse reaction by Ankara.
“Greece does not and will never accept the consequences of the Turkish invasion,” Kotzias said. “It has made it clear to all sides that the elimination of the anachronistic system of guarantees and the withdrawal of all Turkish occupation forces – which, as the recent events in Turkey confirmed, undermine rather than ensure constitutional order and democratic normalcy – are an integral part of the solution of the Cyprus problem.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded that linking the Cyprus situation to recent events in Turkey was “ill-intentioned” and “unfortunate,” and called on Athens to avoid trying to benefit from the events and to display good neighborly behavior.