Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Says Turkish F-16 Fighter Jets “Harassed” His Helicopter. The incident happened while the Greek PM was flying to a Greek island to mark the anniversary of the 1821 uprising against Ottoman rule
Alexis Tsipras said his helicopter was forced into “low manoeuvres” on Monday when Turkish jets entered Greek airspace.
“They forced the helicopter I was on to manoeuvre low until Greek jets intercepted the forces violating our national air space,” Tsipras said in a speech on the island of Agathonisi, a few miles from Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
“The message I want to send them is that such foolish actions have no meaning, they spend their gasoline for nothing. We will always be there to defend our national integrity.”
The prime minister accused Turkey of “foolish actions that have no meaning”.
Turkish security forces refuted the accusations, claiming the jets were carrying out a routine mission.
A Greek military official told Reuters that Greek F-16 fighter jets intercepted the Turkish jets about four miles away from Tsipras’s helicopter.
A Turkish security source said the Turkish jets were conducting routine missions. “There has been no interception attempt by Turkish fighter jets during the Greek prime minister’s activity today,” the source said.
Though NATO allies, Turkey and Greece have long been at odds over issues ranging from ethnically split Cyprus to air space and overflight rights. Relations have worsened since Greece blocked the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers accused by Ankara of involvement in 2016’s failed military coup.
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“The Greek military intercepted the forces that violated the national airspace,” Mr Tsipras said in a speech on the small eastern Aegean island of Agathonisi, located close to the Turkish mainland, to mark independence day.
Relations between the two countries have been strained for decades over territorial disputes in the Aegean.
But Mr Tsipras and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan have made efforts to improve relations. In 2017, Mr Erdogan became the first Turkish head of state to visit Greece for 65 years.