Greek-Turkish tensions were fueled further on Wednesday after Turkish fighter jets made 10 flights over an area that includes the islets of Imia and Kalolimnos, and 162 violations of Greek national air space.
The violations were seen as a response to the dropping of a wreath over Imia by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who flew there by helicopter on Wednesday morning to commemorate three Greek servicemen who were killed 21 years ago when their military chopper crashed at the height of the Imia crisis, which brought the two countries to the brink of war.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Kammenos struck a defiant tone, saying that the Greek armed forces “are ready to deal with any provocation.”
In response to Kammenos’s visit to the Imia islets – whose status as Greek territory has been repeatedly disputed by Ankara – his Turkish counterpart Fikri Isik told Hurriyet Daily News that Turkey doesn’t want tension with Greece, but “won’t bow to fait accompli.”
Kammenos’s visit to Imia came after a Turkish gunboat with Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar onboard sailed into Greek waters and around the Imia islets on Sunday.
The recent spike in threats emanating from Ankara follows Greece’s Supreme Court’s refusal last week to extradite eight Turkish servicemen to Turkey to stand trial for their alleged role in the failed coup attempt there in July.
On Wednesday a Greek court ruled that, despite the rejection of Turkey’s request for their extradition, the officers should be detained for three months pending examination of their asylum bids, due to national security concerns.
All eight men argued for their release as, they said, they have not been convicted of any wrongdoing.