Turkish fighter jets embarked on a barrage of airspace violations in the Aegean on Monday, in what was seen by Athens as a response to remarks on Friday by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell, who hailed Greece as a “fantastic ally” in the region and backed Cyprus’s gas exploration rights.
Specifically, 15 armed Turkish fighter jets conducted 107 violations in the northeast, southeast and central Aegean, as well as two overflights over the islets of Anthropofagos and Makronisi in the eastern Aegean early Monday afternoon.
They also engaged in four mock dogfights with Greek jets, according to the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA).
Military officials said the extent of the violations are comparable to those Ankara conducted in January 2017 when Defense Minister Panos Kammenos threw wreaths from a helicopter into the sea near the islet of Imia in the eastern Aegean to commemorate the death of three Greek servicemen who died in a helicopter crash at the height of a crisis between the two countries in 1996.
All the Turkish aircraft were intercepted in line with international rules of engagement.
Speaking in Washington on Friday, Mitchell underlined that Cyprus has the right to develop its resources.
His comments were viewed as a clear message to Turkey, which objects to Nicosia’s exploitation of gas resources found within the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Our line has been consistent. Cyprus is a sovereign country and just like any other sovereign country it has resources and can develop those resources,” Mitchell said.
Turkey’s view “is a minority of one versus the rest of the world,” he said.
“The rest of the world has a very clear, straightforward view that the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus is grounded in international law.”
Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said Mitchell’s remarks were “clear that Turkey’s view is only accepted by itself and no one else.”