Greek army exercises trigger reaction from Turkey, FYROM

Greek army exercises trigger reaction from Turkey, FYROM

The Greek armed forces on Thursday staged military exercises on the country’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and over the Aegean island of Oinousses, following several days of Turkish violations of Greek air space and tensions with FYROM. 

The initiative, which involved Greek fighter jets flying over the refugee camp of Idomeni in the region of Kilkis, prompted a reaction from FYROM, which accused Greece of violating its air space.

Greek jets flew over Oinousses but failed to discourage Turkish activity in the area. Turkish authorities scrambled two F-16s, which engaged in a dogfight with the Greek Mirages.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos visited Kilkis and then Oinousses by helicopter, dressed in army fatigues.

Tensions between Greece and FYROM flared last weekend after the Balkan country’s police fired tear gas to push scores of migrants back into Greek territory.

On Thursday, Greek police officers continued to conduct checks on volunteers and activists suspected of inciting refugees to storm across the FYROM border.

Officers are attempting to prevent the activists, most of whom are foreign and aligned with anti-establishment groups, from distributing leaflets that urge the refugees to defy the advice of Greek and FYROM authorities and breach the frontier.

Two Spanish men, aged 27 and 28, were detained on Thursday on several charges including disturbing the peace and putting the Greek state at risk. According to police sources, the two men were seen in a crowd of migrants trying to scale the barbed-wire border fence.

Around 10,400 migrants remain stranded at a makeshift camp near the village of Idomeni. According to sources, five disused industrial sites are being prepared to host migrants from the Idomeni camp.

The new venues are expected to be ready in the next few days though it is unclear whether there will be resistance to relocation by the refugees who want to continue their journeys to Western Europe.

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