With Turkey saying it had wrongly issued an order to reserve airspace over the Aegean – including in Greek waters – and withdrawing it, Athens and Ankara are talking diplomacy again.
It took some tense hours to resolve after Turkey first said it was going to conduct military maneuvers in skies that could have conflicted with commercial air traffic and Greek islands.
In a statement posted on the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s website on March 3, spokesman Tanju Bilgic said the order had been “issued erroneously with an inaccurate coordinate” and “has been canceled.”
He said “the issue of long period dangerous areas declared by Greece and Turkey in the Aegean has been on the agenda for a long time.”
He added that Turkey has “proposed to Greece to mutually cancel those areas” but has yet to receive a response and appeal to the new Greek government to “approach the existing issues between our countries in a constructive manner and by making use of the available diplomatic channels of dialogue.”
Uneasiness built quickly after the new coalition led by Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras took power as he had to bring in a partner, the fiercely nationalistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) and made its leader, Panos Kammenos, his Defense Minister.
Kammenos had irritated Turkey by flying over the disputed islets of Imia and dropping flowers from a helicopter in the memory of Greek pilots who died there in a helicopter crash, the circumstances of which remain cloudy to this day.
There was no initial response from Greece to Turkey canceling the order but Kathimerini said it had been told by diplomatic officials that Athens was satisfied, and believed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had backed down after angry statements from Athens and to the the international community.
Despite that, Greek officials said there would be no let-up in patroling the skies over the Aegean as Turkish fighter jets routinely violate Greek air space and engage their Greek fighter pilot peers in mock dog fights.
“Irrespective of whether there was a serious mistake or not, the incident in question showed that provocative behavior, via the armed forces, can lead to the situation spiraling out of control, for which Greece cannot be held responsible,” a diplomatic source said.
When Turkey first issued the notice on March 1, Greece lodged complaints with the European Union, the United Nations, as well as NATO – to which Greek and Turkey belong – prompting international diplomats to cool for cooler heads before the incident escalated.
In a related development, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told Russian radio station Sputnik that Greece and Cyprus could act as a “bridge” between the EU and Russia as they have never been opposing powers.
Kotzias also claimed that, by questioning EU sanctions against Russia, Greece led to “the Europeans listening… and now we are contributing to the creation of European policy.”Source: The National Herald