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Turkey “denies” overflight permit to aircraft with Greek FM flying Baghdad-Athens

Turkey delayed to grant overflight permission to the Greek government airplane carrying Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias from Baghdad to Athens and kept the aircraft in the air circulating for an additional 20 minutes over the Iraqi-Turkish borders on Wednesday night.

According to media reports, the airplane requested clearance from Turkish aviation authorities as it crossed the Iraqi border after setting off from Baghdad but had to wait 20 minutes for permission to be granted.

The pilots had normally received the required permits, but by the time the plane arrived at the Iraq-Turkey border, the Turkish authorities refused to approve the overflight permit they had already issued for the overflight. Turkish authorities did not give any explanation for not granting the overflight permission.

The result was the aircraft with the Greek Foreign Minister circling over the area (shown on the map) for about 20 minutes, during which the communications of the pilots of the aircraft with the Turkish authorities were intense, state broadcaster ERT TV reported.

A marathon of contacts was held, both by the governor, who was trying to reach an agreement with the Turkish authorities, and at the diplomatic level.

Finally, the plane carrying Nikos Dendias landed at Elefsina airport with a delay, shortly before Wednesday midnight.

According to ERT, The Greek military confirmed the diplomatic incident  noting that the Turkish side can claim anything such as “intense air traffic” in the area.

The Greek military speaks of “hazing” by Turkey that “grabbed the opportunity for a provocation, as diplomatic permits for VIP flights are always requested early and the reason for the permit refusal was not explained.”

Such a delay of a scheduled diplomatic mission that has received all the necessary permits in advance is considered as “uncommon” and is being seen by Athens as a “fresh provocation” by Ankara.

The move came hours before European Union leaders meet in Brussels, where Athens is expected to push for a strong response to Turkish aggression in the East Mediterranean and the Aegean.

While FM Dendias ordered an official complain to Ankara, Turkey commented that the incident was “a technical mistake by the authority in charge.”

It is not the first and not the last time, Turkey is trying to harass a Greek government aircraft with a Minister on board.

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