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Tension mounts between Ankara, Athens as Turkish jets violate Greek airspace: report

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Ankara’s claims in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean were highlighted once again on Thursday with a barrage of overflights and violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets, the Greek daily Kathimerini reported.

More specifically, the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) said some 35 Turkish fighter jets conducted 10 overflights, or surveillance flights, committed 110 airspace violations and engaged in six mock dogfights with Greek fighter jets in an area spanning the northern Aegean to the eastern Mediterranean.

The latest incursions came on the heels of recent remarks by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, disputing Greece’s sovereignty in the Aegean, and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who warned that Ankara would not relinquish its rights in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean.

The rhetoric and the violations are seen in Athens as a response to comments by the chief of GEETHA, Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis, on Wednesday, when he set out a “red line” warning that Greece would “flatten” any Greek islet in the event that Turkish forces land there.

The latest nosedive in relations also came amid discussion between Athens and Ankara to set a date for a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in İstanbul.

The incursions on Thursday by Turkey occurred as Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was touring the islets of Ro, Strongyli and Kastellorizo in the eastern Aegean, accompanied by the chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff, Lt. Gen. Alkiviadis Stefanis, and Hellenic Navy Commander Adm. Nikos Tsounis.

Later, during a visit to a military outpost on Leros, a small island in the southeast Aegean, Kammenos warned Ankara that if it makes “the slightest move, we will crush them.”

“We want peace, we want to live in peace and harmony, but we are not prepared to concede a single centimeter,” Kammenos said.

“Those making these provocations had better stick to verbal challenges only,” he said.

Tsipras on Thursday urged Turkey to abide by international law in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean and respect Cyprus’s right over its exclusive economic zone, during a joint summit with the leaders of Cyprus and Israel.

“We stressed the need for a fair and viable solution to the Cyprus issue for the benefit of the Cypriot people, by abolishing guarantees and the withdrawal of the occupation army,” he said.

“We noted the need to respect international law in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, particularly Cyprus’s right to exercise its sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone,” he added.

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