Turkish vessels have been involved in a new incident that Greek authorities are treating as the latest case of Ankara trying to challenge Greece’s sovereignty in the Aegean.
The incident occurred off the Oinousses complex of islands in the eastern Aegean on Wednesday afternoon. Three Turkish coast guard boats approached one of the islets, Panaghia, and then remained close to it, without dropping anchor, for 10 hours. They were monitored by Greek coast guard patrol boats.
“They came very close to Panaghia and remained there without moving, despite the presence of Greek vessels,” Oinousses Mayor Stefanos Vogiatzis told Kathimerini, adding that the presence of Turkish ships in the area is a common occurrence.
The National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) did not attach any added significance to the incident but seasoned observers point out that there has recently been a persistent breach of territorial waters by Turkish vessels off the Imia islets and Panaghia, which are two areas that Ankara considers to be “gray zones,” where it can challenge Greece’s sovereignty. Greece has a permanent military presence and a helipad on Panaghia.
On Thursday, the new Hellenic Air Force chief, Lieutenant General Christos Christodoulou, said that plans to upgrade Greece’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets will take some time.
He confirmed that a request has been sent to the US government and suggested that all 155 aircraft may be in line for upgrades. He also stressed that Greece is in the early stages of inquiring about the purchase of new F-35 fighters from Lockheed Martin.
Greece has essentially asked about the availability and cost of the fifth-generation planes and Christodoulou said an order for 20 aircraft may be a possible starting point.