Erdogan challenges Greece over alleged airspace violations | Politics News
Turkey’s president warns Greece it will pay a “heavy price” if it harasses Turkish fighter jets over the Aegean Sea.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Greece it will pay a “heavy price” if it continues to harass Turkish fighter jets over the Aegean Sea and hinted at military action.
The two wary NATO neighbors have long-standing disputes over sea and air borders that lead to near-daily air force patrols and interception missions, mostly around the Greek islands near the Turkish coastline.
“Hey Greece, look at history. If you go further, you will pay a heavy price,” Erdogan told a crowded rally in the Black Sea town of Samsun on Saturday.
Historical rivals Turkey and Greece are at odds over issues ranging from overflights and the status of the Aegean islands to maritime borders and hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean, as well as the division of Cyprus in 1974.
Turkey has complained in recent months about what it calls provocative actions by Athens, saying such actions undermine peace efforts.
In one such incident, Ankara said last weekend that Greece used a Russian-made air defense system to harass Turkish planes during a reconnaissance mission in what it called a “hostile action”.
In his address, Erdogan accused Greece of “trying to threaten us with S-300s”.
Athens has dismissed the allegations and often accuses Ankara of overflying the Greek islands.
“Don’t Forget Izmir”
A furious Erdogan has accused Greece of “occupying” Aegean islands that have demilitarized status.
“We have only one word to say to Greece: don’t forget Izmir [Smyrna in Greek]“, Erdogan said, referring to the end of Greek occupation after Turkish forces entered the city on the Aegean coast in 1922.
“Your occupation of the islands does not bind us,” Erdogan said.
Ankara recently accused Athens of arming the demilitarized Aegean islands – which Athens rejects, but Erdogan had not previously accused Greece of occupying them.
In June, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara would challenge Greece’s sovereignty over the islands if it continued to send troops there.
The Aegean Sea has a complex geography with over 2,000 islands, most of them Greek.
The two countries came to the brink of war in the 1990s over two small uninhabited islets known collectively as Kardak in Turkish and Imia in Greek.
Erdogan broke off dialogue with Greece after accusing Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of lobbying against US arms sales to his country.
Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him, he fumed in May.
Greece and Turkey are also looking for American weapons.
In June, Greece formalized a request for American-made F-35 fighter jets.
Turkey is negotiating F-16 purchases after Washington kicked Ankara out of the F-35 program for taking delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system in 2019.