Turkish fighter jets harassed a helicopter that was carrying Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, Greece’s Minister of National Defence, and General Konstantinos Floros, Greece’s Chief of General Staff yesterday — the top two military commanders in the country.
The two were on their way to visit Greek military outposts on islands in the eastern Aegean Sea — near to Turkey, but still within Greek territory — when two Turkish F-16s unexpectedly intercepted the helicopter and flew alongside it, occasionally making dangerous maneuvers near it, as reported by Greek City Times.
The incident took place at approximately 11:30 AM Sunday morning, shortly after the helicopter had taken off from Oinousses. The Turkish planes again flew into Greek airspace a short time later over Agathonisi. They ultimately left the area when Greek fighters intervened.
While violations of Greek’s territorial boundaries by the Turkish armed forces is nothing new, this incident was notable for its especially provocative nature, being carried out in full view of Greece’s military chiefs.
Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has long spoken of his desire for a “Blue Homeland” for Turkey which includes territorial expansion, with seizing control of islands in the eastern Aegean that are currently part of Greece on his agenda.
Greece’s Ministry of Defence condemned the incident. “This is another unacceptable action that reaffirms once again Turkey’s negative role in the region, insisting on anachronistic perceptions of international relations,” the Ministry said in a statement, according to another report by Greek City Times. “We call on her to enter the 21st century.”
Panagiotopoulos likewise criticized the Turks’ provocation, but said that Greece is unafraid. He also congratulated soldiers who are engaged in protecting Greece’s border with Turkey.
Turkey has increased its efforts to intimidate Greece in recent months. Last week, Turkish forces fired their weapons across the border into Greece on several occasions, as previously reported by Voice of Europe. And the steady flow of illegal migrants across the Greek-Turkish border — which is often assisted by the Turkish armed forces — remains a problem not only for Greece, but for all of Europe.