Greece, Turkey in War of Words Over Aegean Airspace Violations

On Friday, Greece’s Foreign Ministry criticized comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who reportedly said his country will respond every time Greek fighter jets fly over the Aegean.

On March 14, Erdogan said that if Greece sends out fighter jets to intercept Turkish F-16s over the Aegean, it should not be surprised if Turkey responds to Greek flights the same way.

“If you take off, my [fighter jet] will also take off,” he said in a televised interview.

“Turkey’s effort to equate the flights of Turkish military aircraft that violate Greece’s national sovereignty with the identification and interception missions the Hellenic Air Force carries out in defense of national sovereignty is completely unacceptable,” the Greek ministry said in a press release.

“Turkish military aircraft violate Greek national air space on an almost daily basis, including through low-altitude overflights of inhabited Greek islands. This is a practice that Greece systematically condemns and reports, both bilaterally as well as to the competent international bodies.”

The ministry said the legal status in the Aegean is “clear and fully enshrined” in International Law, “leaving no room for doubt.”

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hami Aksoy, responded by saying Turkey believes the free use of international airspace over the Aegean should not constitute a contentious issue between the two countries.

“Greece, on the other hand, claims 10 miles of airspace beyond six miles of territorial waters in clear contradiction of international law,” he added.

“The fact that Greece perceives Turkey’s flights- which are in accordance with international law- as a threat, and presents them as violations is in no way compatible with alliance solidarity and good neighborly relations,” said Aksoy, referring to NATO, which both Turkey and Greece belong to.