Turkish frigate escalates tension

A Turkish frigate that broke off from a navy exercise in the Aegean yesterday came within a few kilometers of Attica’s southern coastline in a move that Greek defense officials described as a symbolic escalation of tensions by Ankara. The Turgut Reis broke off from other Turkish navy vessels that had been involved in the exercise in the central Aegean at around 9 a.m., officials said. The Turkish navy had gained permission to conduct the exercise within the triangle formed by the islands of Andros, Chios and Icaria. But the Turgut Reis moved away from this area, heading west to within 4 kilometers of Sounion and Kea when a Greek navy frigate was dispatched to intercept it. According to defense officials, this action violated maritime rules of safe passage which dictate that a warship may enter foreign waters only if it follows a steady course, without conducting maneuvers or increasing speed, without approaching the coastline directly and with its sensors deactivated. The Greek frigate Bouboulina communicated with the Turkish vessel, which failed to change its course and continued toward the island of Kea. Defense officials said there would have been no problem had the Turkish ship traveled southward rather than northward, toward the Attica coastline. It was unclear whether the Turkish vessel had withdrawn completely by late yesterday. Also yesterday, at around 3 p.m., four formations of Turkish fighter jets violated Greek air space in the central Aegean three times. Yesterday’s developments came just two days after Athens described Greece’s ties with Turkey as «static» due to a series of air space violations this month.

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