Ceaseless Aegean jousting

Turkey’s military yesterday denied having stepped up its activity in the Aegean, even as over a dozen Turkish fighters violated Greek air space. Furthermore, one of a formation of three Turkish F-16 fighters that breached Greek air space in the southeastern Aegean buzzed a Greek military helicopter en route from Kastellorizo to Rhodes. The jet crossed the helicopter’s path from 170 meters away and 300 meters above the army AB 205, within Greek air space. The helicopter landed safely on Rhodes. Another 13 Turkish fighters had to be chased out of Greek air space yesterday. «This is all being very closely monitored,» Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos said. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry confirmed yesterday that what appeared to be a Turkish coast guard helicopter flew over the Dodecanese islet of Imia – over which Greece and Turkey came close to war in 1996 – but denied that it had landed. In Ankara, the Turkish army’s deputy chief of staff, Ilker Basbug, said Greek complaints of intensive Turkish military activities in the Aegean and around Imia «do not reflect the realities.»