Venizelos firm on Aegean row

As Turkish fighter jets violated Greek national air space on the day marking the air force’s celebration of its patron saint, Archangel Michael, Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos indicated yesterday that Greece was not interested in engaging in power games in the Aegean but that it would defend its sovereign interests. «Our stance is not passive; we are displaying the necessary strategic composure, but we will respond when necessary,» Venizelos told reporters after the new series of overflights. Shortly before 10.30 a.m., eight Turkish aircraft – four F16s and four F4s – entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR), south of the island of Chios. About 20 minutes later, the four F4s flew over the small island of Farmakonisi at a low altitude. Greek aircraft were dispatched and chased off the Turkish planes. Yesterday’s overflights came on the back of violations by Turkish aircraft on Sunday that prompted the Hellenic Navy frigate Themistoklis to withdraw from a NATO exercise being hosted by Turkey in the Aegean. The Themistoklis was ordered to withdraw after 10 Turkish aircraft participating in the exercise entered the FIR without having submitted flight plans in advance. Venizelos referred to «many ups and downs, constant tension and a war of nerves in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.» The tensions come just a couple of weeks after sources told Kathimerini that Athens and Ankara had agreed, in principle, on a resolution to their disagreements in the Aegean. According to those sources, the likeliest scenario would be that Turkey lifts its objections to Greece extending its territorial waters in the Aegean to 12 nautical miles but that this extension only applies to the coastline of its mainland, not to the Greek islands. Practically this scenario would mean that Greece secures control of less than 80 percent of the Aegean. The same sources said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants a consensus on the Aegean by the end of the year.