Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Greece says Turks buzzed helicopter


ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government has condemned what it described as a provocativ­e act by Turkey, whose fighter jets Athens says buzzed a helicopter carrying the Greek defense minister and the head of the armed forces who were visiting a Greek island.

Turkey, however, denied its jets had ever harassed the helicopter, saying they were simply on a routine flight.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Monday the incident Sunday was another indication that “Turkey often exceeds the limits of both the rules of internatio­nal law and of course the rules of good neighborli­ness.”

NATO allies and neighbors, Greece and Turkey have a long history of testy relations, and have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s. They remain divided over a series of issues, including territoria­l claims in the Aegean Sea and immigratio­n.

In Sunday’s incident, Greek fighter jets repelled the two Turkish jets, Greek officials said. Local media reported that Turkish jets continued to fly over the Greek island of Oinousses during a visit there by Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotop­oulos and the chief of the National Defense General Staff, Gen. Konstantin­os Floros.

“Such behavior by Turkey doesn’t help in defusing tension, which both sides should be seeking at this time,” Panagiotop­oulos said Sunday. The Greek Foreign Ministry described the incident as “another unacceptab­le Turkish action” which confirms “the negative role Turkey is playing in the region, insisting on anachronis­tic perception­s of internatio­nal relations.”

Turkey, for its part, accused Greece of trying to escalate tensions.

“Our warplanes carried out the task of recognitio­n within the framework of routine activities in the Aegean,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a written statement.

“Trying to escalate tensions by dramatizin­g routine flights is of no benefit to this country,” Aksoy said. “Instead, these issues should be addressed during the confidence-building process that was initiated by the two countries’ defense ministries.”

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