Greece expects no letup in Aegean

Athens expects Ankara to keep tension in the Aegean high for the next few months, until the European Union decides in December as to how Turkey is progressing in its bid to join the bloc, Foreign Ministry sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. There have been a number of incidents, both in the air and at sea, in recent weeks that have heightened concerns of Greek diplomats about the attitude that Turkey will adopt over the coming months. Last week, Ankara played down an incident in which Turkish journalists were stopped while filming Greek soldiers on the small island of Rho in the eastern Aegean. However, the main concern is the number of incursions by Turkish fighter jets into Greek air space. During June and July, Turkish Air Force planes flew over Greek territory, including islands such as Agathonisi and Farmakonisi, 19 times. A total of 363 incursions into Athens’s Flight Information Region (FIR) were recorded and Greek jets were dispatched 58 times to ward off Turkish planes. To some, Turkey’s actions are a de facto negation of a 1988 agreement, known as the Yilmaz-Papoulias memorandum after the Turkish and Greek foreign ministers at the time, that was struck between the two countries. According to the deal, the two countries will respect each other’s territorial integrity as well air space and sea rights. The agreement also states, «It is understood that the planning and execution of all national military activities will be carried out in accordance with the existing international rules, regulations and procedures.» Government sources, meanwhile, deny that changes at the top of the Greek armed forces last week had anything to do with the tension in the Aegean.