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Turkey accuses Greece of ‘hostile action’ against its jets

Ankara says Greek air defense systems locked on military planes flying near Rhodes, but Athens denies allegation

A Greek air force jet takes part in a Greek-US military exercise south of the island of Crete, August 24, 2020. (Greek National Defense via AP)
A Greek air force jet takes part in a Greek-US military exercise south of the island of Crete, August 24, 2020. (Greek National Defense via AP)

ISTANBUL — Turkey on Sunday said fellow NATO member Greece had used a Russian-made air defense system to harass Turkish jets on a reconnaissance mission in what it termed a “hostile action.”

The incident took place on August 23 when Greece’s S-300 missile system on the island of Crete put a lock on Turkish F-16 jets flying at 10,000 feet west of Rhodes, Turkish defense ministry sources said.

That was “incompatible with the spirit of (NATO) alliance” and amounted to “hostile acts” under the NATO rules of engagement, the sources added.

“Despite this hostile action, (Turkish) jets completed their planned missions and returned to their base safely.”

Greek defense ministry sources dismissed the allegations.

“Greece’s S-300 missile system has never put a lock on Turkish F-16 jets,” the sources said, according to state-run Ert television.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, on a two-day official visit to Greece, meets Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, at the time leader of the main opposition New Democracy party in Athens, December 7, 2017. (Kayhan Ozer/Pool via AP)

Turkey has in recent months complained of what it calls provocative actions by Greece, saying such moves undermine peace efforts.

The two uneasy NATO neighbors have long-standing sea and air boundary disputes which lead to near-daily air force patrols and interception missions mostly around Greek islands near Turkey’s coastline.

Athens accuses Ankara of overflying Greek islands.

Turkey says Greece is stationing troops on islands in the Aegean Sea in violation of peace treaties signed after World Wars I and II.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cut off dialogue with Greece after charging that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis lobbied against US arms sales to his country.

Washington has sanctioned Ankara for taking delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system in 2019. The purchase saw the United States drop Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program.

But US President Joe Biden’s administration has signaled it may be willing to move past the dispute and there have been talks about F-16 purchases.

An illustrative photo of an US Air Force F-16, below, escorting two F-35 jets, above, after the latter arrived at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, September 2015. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Turkish defense ministry sources said Greece also had purchased the Russian-made air defense system and accused Western countries, without naming them, of pursuing two-sided policies.

Athens is also eying US weaponry in an attempt to bolster its air force amid tensions with Ankara.

In June, Greece formalized a request for US-made F-35 fighter jets.

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