Turkey Plays Down Fighter Jet Harassment of Helicopter Transporting Greek Minister

A missile-loaded Turkish Air Force warplane takes off from the Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts of the city of Adana, southeastern Turkey, Tuesday, July 28, 2015After months of reluctance, Turkish warplanes last week started striking militant targets in Syria and agreed to allow the U.S. to launch its own …
AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy has played down an incident over the weekend which involved Turkish fighter jets harassing a helicopter containing Greek defence minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos.

The incident took place on Sunday when defence minister Panagiotopoulos, along with Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff Konstantinos Floros, took an NH90 helicopter to visit Greek military positions on islands in the Aegean sea.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Aksoy claimed the flight of the fighter jets was “routine” and said the aircraft were engaging in an identification operation, newspaper Kathimerini reported on Tuesday.

“Dramatising routine flights so as to sow tension is not to Greece’s benefit,” Aksoy said, and added: “Instead, these issues should be taken up within the process of confidence-building measures launched between the defence ministries of both countries.”

Greek newspaper Proto Thema published a video of another incident that took place on the same day, claiming that the Turkish F-16s came into contact with a Greek Mirage fighter jet and engaged in a bloodless dogfight over the Aegean sea.

The newspaper claims at least eight Turkish F-16s violated Greek airspace on Sunday flying over Oinousses, Agathonisi, Arkios, Lipsi, Farmakonisi, and Panagia Island while armed with air-to-air missiles.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey have been high since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the gates to the Greek border, and Europe, in February.

While the Turks were forced to close the border again due to the coronavirus outbreak, there were several reports of Turkish authorities helping migrants get across before the closure.

“We have checked that everything has gone well and that the smugglers do not charge too much. We also have intelligence about where and when it is safe to get over,” a Turkish soldier told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in March.

Other reports have claimed Turkey sent its agents among the migrants in the Evros border region to agitate against Greek border guards.

Greeks have also reported Turkish border agents shooting their firearms in the direction of Greece and Greek border police.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)breitbart.com

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