New intrusions in Aegean skies

Turkish military jets continued to breach Greek air space over the Aegean yesterday, engaging in fierce simulated dogfights with Greek interceptors three days after a couple of Turkish fighters flew low over the civil airport of Rhodes. Yesterday, Turkey’s ambassador to Athens was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and presented with a severe demarche over Tuesday’s incident, in which two Turkish F-4 jets crossed 150-200 meters above the airport on one of Greece’s prime tourist destinations. At the same time, dozens of fully armed Greek and Turkish fighter planes were engaging in battle maneuvers over the Aegean, as Greek jets rose from military airfields across the country to chase off a total of 40 Turkish aircraft that entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) and Greek air space in the north and southeastern Aegean. These incursions were unconnected with Turkey’s ongoing naval and air-force exercise, code-named Sea Wolf, in the central Aegean. Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said the ministry was closely following the recent spate of air-space violations, as was the Defense Ministry. «We must be particularly careful, we must not concede ground or contribute to heightening this tension,» he said. Meanwhile, speaking to journalists in Athens after Thursday’s meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said Greece would try to prevent the new NATO command center in Larissa, central Greece, from being decommissioned due to the alliance’s new strategic concerns. While conceding it was no longer necessary for the alliance to have many command centers, he implied that the fate of the Larissa installations should be linked to a similar NATO command center in Izmir.

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