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22nd Jan 2021

Turkey reacts to Greek air violations complaint

  • 'The fundamental source of tension ... is the Greek misperception that the entire Aegean is a Greek sea', the Turkish diplomat said (Photo: Visit Greece)

Turkey has hit back at Greek accusations of airspace violation by saying they were based on bogus territorial claims.

"Turkish forces are conducting regular training and operational flights in the international waters and airspace of the Aegean Sea, as is their right," a Turkish diplomat told EUobserver on Thursday (27 February).

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But "due to Greek positions, not compatible with international law, most of the flights conducted between six and 10 nautical miles off the Greek islands by the Turkish forces are being misrepresented as violations of Greek national airspace," he said.

Turkey spoke out after the Greek foreign ministry complained, one day earlier, that the Turkish air force was guilty of "provocative actions" in flying through Greek areas.

There were more than 4,600 such violations last year - the highest number on record - Greece noted, painting a picture of Turkey as increasingly aggressive and reckless.

But for the Turkish foreign ministry, "the fundamental source of tension between Turkey and Greece in the Aegean Sea is the Greek misperception that the entire Aegean is a Greek sea, in total disregard of Turkey's rights and interests as one of the coastal states".

It cited the so-called Chicago Convention of 1944 on aviation to say national airspace was meant to cover national territory only.

Greek territory extended to six nautical miles from its coast, but it claimed national airspace to a limit of 10 miles, the Turkish diplomat said.

"This makes Greece the only country in the world, with unmatching territorial sea and airspace limits, unrecognised by any other country," the diplomat said.

"International airspace over the high seas is not under the sovereignty of any nation," the diplomat added.

"Turkey is committed to good neighbourly relations with Greece," the diplomat also said.

"The Aegean Sea should be a sea of friendship and cooperation", Turkey said.

The spirit of "friendship" was also lacking in a maritime dispute on Turkish gas drilling in Cypriot waters in the Mediterranean Sea, however.

And the EU, on Thursday, put two Turkish nationals under an asset freeze and visa ban over the affair.

"These persons are responsible for or involved in planning, directing, and implementing offshore hydrocarbon exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean which have not been authorised by the Republic of Cyprus," the EU said, in an ongoing row that began last year.

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