NEWS

PM's helicopter forced to take evasive action from Turkish fighters in the Aegean

TAGS: Turkey, Diplomacy

Turkish fighter jets attempted Monday to harass the helicopter transporting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to the eastern Aegean island of Agathonisi. They were intercepted by Greek fighters and never got very close, but the helicopter still had to take evasive action.

State ANA-MPA news agency reported that Tsipras was being transported in a Chinook helicopter to Agathonisi, a small Greek island south of Samos and fairly close to the Turkish coast, when two Turkish F-4 fighters approached, violating Greek airspace in the process.

The Turkish fighters, flying at a height of 6,000 feet approached within 4 miles of Tsipras's helicopter, which was approaching Agathonisi at a height of 2,000 feet. The Chinook flew lower to avoid the Turkish fighters, which were intercepted by Greek F-16s.

Tsipras referred to the incident at Agathonisi. “Coming here, I was harassed by Turkish planes that forced the helicopter I was on to take evasive action and for what purpose?”

“Greece is a force for peace and cooperation, this is the message I want to send to the neighbors, cooperation and growing together, not fake bravado which only waster kerosene. These stupid acts are meaningless. They should know the Prime Minister will reach even the most isolated [island] by swimming, if necessary. We have open arms, for dialogue and understanding, but, if necessary, we will do what our forefathers did,” Tsipras added, referring to the 198th anniversary of Greeks' taking up arms against the Ottoman occupiers to fight for independence.

Trying to dispute the status of Aegean islands and sea is a longstanding Turkish tactic. The Turks also object to the discrepancy between Greece's sea borders (6 miles from land) and air borders (10 miles) and do not recognize it. The discrepancy did not occur as a deliberate Greek tactic and means little when a jet airplane can cover the distance in seconds.

Turkey's aim is not necessarily territorial expansion, but to share in any resources discovered in the Aegean, like they tried to do in the 1970s with the discovery of (poor quality) oil. They have said that searching of oil east of the island of Thasos, well within Greek territorial waters, or expanding the sea border, to 12 nautical miles, as Greece has the right to do, would be a cause for war, because it would mean there would be no neutral waters in the Aegean for non-Greek ships to pass through without asking Greece's permission.

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