Wednesday morning, Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos flew on a helicopter and threw a wreath in the sea to honor the three pilots who lost their lives during the Imia/Kardak conflict in 1996.
Turkey’s response was to send a set of F-16 fighter jets in the area and violate not only the agreement that prohibits flights over the Imia/Kardak but also the FIR Athens.
The Turkish F-16s flew over the Imia islet six times and over the neighboring islet of Kalolimnos twice.
The Turkish F-16s were intercepted by jet fighters of the Greek Air Forces.
The Greek General Staff issued a statement speaking of 8 violations of FIR Athens by Turkish fighter jets.
Pictures & Video released by the Greek Defense Ministry
The Turkish FIR violations occurred at the same time the helicopter with the Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and Air Forces top commander Christos Christodoulou was in the area.
For third consecutive day, Ankara continues to provoke Greece with actions that do not seem to end soon and to challenge Greek sovereignty in the Aegean insisting on “grey zones” in the Aegean Sea.
On Sunday, the Chief of Turkish General Staff in the company of top commanders of Land, Air and Naval Forces sailed on a missile gunboat around the Greek uninhabited islet of Imia in an unprecedented move and a provocation at highest level.
Two special-forces speedboats were accompanying the gunboat. According to a statement issued by the Greek Defense Ministry, the Turkish boats were blocked and warned by Greek coast guard vessels and withdrew from the area after about seven minutes.
In an attempt to give huge publicity to the incident, the Turkish General staff uploaded 26 pictures of the “tour” and several videos that have been distributed to media and were massively disseminated.
Turkey has increased its presence in the area of the eastern Aegean sea just days after the Greek Supreme Court rejected Ankara’s request to extradite 8 Turkish soldiers who flew to north Greece and sought asylum a day after the failed coup of last July.
Athens reacted and reacts rather cool to the Turkish efforts to escalate tension in the Aegean – for one more time – and considers the incidents as part of attempts to boost the popularity of President Recept Tayyip Erdogan before the referendum that will grant him “super powers” as president.
On the official side, only the president of the Greek Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos called on Turkey to respect the borders of Greece and Europe.
Imia/Kardak = Imia is the Greek name of the islet, Kardak the Turkish name.