Intent on maintaining a charged atmosphere in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean during the holidays, Ankara conducted a barrage of Greek airspace violations over the last three days.
On Friday alone, Turkish fighter jets conducted 20 overflights in the Aegean. The overflights by F-16s and F-4s began shortly before 11 a.m. and continued throughout the day. Turkish jets also conducted overflights on Christmas Eve as Deputy Defense Minister Alkiviadis Stefanis toured the area, while violations also occurred on Christmas day.
The Hellenic National Defense General Staff said the Turkish aircraft were intercepted by Greek jets in line with the international rules of engagement.
In response to Ankara’s tactics of escalation, Athens has sought to strengthen itself diplomatically on a variety of levels.
A case in point is the agreement to construct the East Med pipeline that will be signed on January 2 in Athens by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
Mitsotakis will then head to Washington on January 7 for talks with US President Donald Trump.
Turkey’s behavior has been lambasted in Greece, with Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis saying that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is “playing with fire.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Parliament speaker Kostas Tasoulas said that the Eastern Mediterranean is of great geo-strategic importance in terms of trade and energy and that if Turkey starts threatening the interests of other countries, apart from Greece, it “may be one of its biggest mistakes.”
Turkey has drawn intense criticism from countries in the region over agreements it signed with the Tripoli-based government in Libya that demarcate maritime boundaries between the two countries and stipulate the provision by Ankara of military assistance.
Erdogan on Thursday confirmed that the Tripoli government formally requested military assistance.
According to Turkish media reports, the country’s Parliament is expected on January 8 or 9 to approve sending of troops to Libya, which means that this could happen within the month.