In a visit to the Aegean island of Kastellorizo on Tuesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sent a message of “cooperation… but also determination” to Turkey. But provocations continued with Turkish jets harassing the Chinook helicopter carrying Tsipras and armed forces chief Evangelos Apostolakis.
While Tsipras and Apostolakis were being flown to Rhodes from Ro, the Turkish fighter jets, flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet, asked the Greek helicopter pilot, which at that moment was at 1,500 feet, to provide flight details, according to defense sources.
The pilot alerted the Hellenic Air Force (HAF), which dispatched two fighter jets that approached the area at 20,000 feet, prompting the Turkish aircraft to retreat. Meanwhile Turkish Coast Guard and Navy vessels have been gathering along the coast opposite Imia since Sunday, Kathimerini understands.
Tsipras sought to address Ankara’s rising aggression in comments from Kastellorizo earlier in the day.
“Greece is not threatening anyone but is not afraid of anyone either,” he said, adding that “we will not cede an inch of territory.” “I want to send a message of cooperation and peaceful coexistence, but also of determination,” he said.
His visit came in the wake of a dispute between Greece and Turkey about Greek flags that Turkish authorities claim to have taken down from Greek islets, a claim Athens rebuffs.
That came after the death last week of a HAF pilot whose plane crashed following a mission to intercept Turkish F-16s in the Aegean and an incident involving a Turkish helicopter that flew close to Ro, prompting Greek troops to fire warning shots.
Speaking from the same place that former socialist premier George Papandreou chose to announce Greece’s first memorandum, Tsipras heralded Greece’s scheduled exit from its third bailout in August. “Today, nearly eight years later, we are reaching the end of this difficult period,” he said, adding that Greece was “entering the final strait for a clean exit.”
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused Tsipras of “impudence” for talking about a “clean exit,” blaming him for burdening Greece with two “unnecessary bailouts.”