The barrage of Turkish overflights above uninhabited or even inhabited islets in recent weeks are seen in Athens as a message from Ankara about the ability of its armed forces to have direct operational visibility and access even in places where, theoretically, the Hellenic Armed Forces intervene effectively and directly.
On Monday and Sunday alone, the islands of Kinaros and Kandelioussa Nisyros were targeted by Turkish UAV overflights a total of seven times (five and two respectively). Since the beginning of the year Turkish UAVs, and sometimes F-16 fighters, have flown 29 times over Kinaros and the adjacent island of Glaros, and 23 times over Kandelioussa.
Kinaros and Kandelioussa are not the only two small islands in Ankara’s sights as from time to time, Farmakonisi, Agathonisi and Oinousses with Panagia in the east of Chios are also targeted.
Athens believes there are various reasons why Kinaros and Kandelioussa were targeted in recent weeks.
First, to back in practice the more general Turkish position on “gray zones,” i.e. islands of indeterminate sovereignty in which category, according to Ankara, both Kinaros and Kandelioussa are. Ankara is irked by the fact that both small islands have infrastructure. Kinaros is a residential island, as Irini Katsotourchi lives there permanently; her house was reconstructed last February by the Design and Construction Unit of the General Staff. Kandelioussa also has some building infrastructure, in particular a lighthouse.
The second reason is to demonstrate that the range of the Turkish-made Bayraktar drones is such that they can operate with comfort and direct control from their command stations on the Asia Minor coast in Turkey, even in places beyond the bounds of the eastern Aegean. It is also an inexpensive way of surveying the Aegean, as the Bayraktar has a very low flight cost per hour.
Thirdly, Ankara wants to show that in the event of Turkish armed forces occupying one of these islands, Turkish UAVs are able to operate successfully. Both small islands have been the subject of exercises by the Hellenic Armed Forces. Kandelioussa, in particular, has in the past been the subject of scenarios involving the recapture of an island in the event of a war crisis.
Finally another important reason is Ankara’s wish to map areas that its armed forces occasionally identify as being of high interest.