Ankara on Monday attempted to present its stance in the Aegean as part of “routine” operations after Sunday’s harassment by Turkish jets of the helicopter that was transporting Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) Konstantinos Floros to military posts on Oinousses and Panagia, Agathonisi and Farmakonisi.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy denied the harassment, describing it as a “routine flight” which was dramatized by Athens, and claimed that Turkish fighter jets were carrying out a “routine aircraft identification operation” in the Aegean.
“Dramatizing routine flights so as to sow tension is not to Greece’s benefit,” he said.
“Instead, these issues should be taken up within the process of confidence-building measures (CBM) launched between the defense ministries of both countries,” he insisted.
CBM talks ended in February, having never reached a substantial point of convergence. This was followed by a record number of overflights in the Aegean, including above large islands and organized attempts to breach Greek defenses at the Evros land border.
Aksoy’s remarks came hours before the Greek ambassador to Ankara lodged a demarche with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, and following a statement by the Greek Foreign Ministry which denounced Turkey’s “unacceptable action.”
“An action that once again confirms the negative role Turkey is playing in the region through its persistence on anachronistic approaches to international relations and on violations of international legality that lead nowhere,” it said.
Despite Greece protestations, two pairs of Turkish F-16 fighter jets flew over Oinousses and over the southeastern tip of Chios at noon on Monday, resuming the strategy of flying over large inhabited islands in addition to small ones.
Meanwhile, in Cyprus, it seems that Nicosia’s energy program is grinding to a halt for at least a year after the French-Italian Total-Eni joint venture announced on Monday that it would be suspending drilling activities for 12 months due to the coronavirus crisis.
ExxonMobil did the same last month.