Greece raised the issue of Ankara’s aggression during Wednesday’s NATO summit of defense ministers via teleconference as Turkish fighter jets this month smashed the record of Aegean overflights, the Kathimerini daily reported.
Even before the completion of the first four months of 2020, a total of 217 overflights had already taken place, a record number for decades. The next worst year in terms of overflights was 2019, when 124 overflights were recorded over the entire year.
In fact, in the last two months, Turkish fighters have also shown a penchant for flying over larger inhabited islands (Lesvos, Chios, Samos) and over the Evros land border. There were more overflights on Wednesday in clear violation of the moratorium in place against such actions during the holidays, especially Easter Week.
In addition to Chios and Samos, Turkish F-16s also flew over Arkoi, Grylousa, Leipsoi, Farmakonisi, Agathonisi, Panagia and Oinousses.
The issue was broached during the NATO summit by Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, who also referred to Ankara’s recent aggressive behavior at the Evros land border, despite the fact that Wednesday’s meeting was about ways to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time the Hellenic Coast Guard and Navy remain on high alert in the eastern Aegean in order to thwart possible attempts to transport migrants from the Turkish coast.
Indicative of the situation is that 15 Hellenic Navy vessels are operating behind the ships of the coast guard. The number is close to the level of vigilance that existed until the end of March, during the migrant crisis that erupted on the Evros border.
Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours, there have been zero migrant arrivals on the islands. The migration issue was also raised at the NATO summit by Panagiotopoulos, who stressed the need for a continuation of the patrols and surveillance by Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) in the Aegean.
Panagiotopoulos “highlighted the negative consequences of migration flows from Turkey in conjunction with the escalation of Covid-19, and called on the Allies to deploy additional forces in the Aegean.”
He also stressed that “the exercise of pressure with organized migration flows on our borders in Evros and the islands of the eastern Aegean, accompanied by a campaign to spread false news internationally, was successfully and decisively addressed by the Greek government.”