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Erdogan challenges Greece over alleged airspace violations

The Turkish president is warning Greece that it will pay a “heavy price” if it harassed Turkish combat aircraft over the Aegean Sea.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Greece that it would pay a “heavy price” if it continued to harass Turkish combat aircraft over the Aegean and hinted at military action.

The volatile NATO neighbors have long-running maritime and air border disputes that lead to near-daily air patrols and mostly intercept missions around the Greek islands near the Turkish coast.

“Greece, take a look at history. If you go further, you will pay a heavy price,” Erdogan said at a rally in the Black Sea city of Samsun on Saturday.

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Historical rivals Turkey and Greece have been at odds over issues ranging from overflights and the status of the Aegean islands to maritime borders and hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean, as well as the 1974 partition of Cyprus.

Turkey has complained in recent months about what it described as provocative actions by Athens, saying such moves undermine peace efforts.

In one such incident, Ankara said last weekend that Greece had used a Russian-made air defense system to harass Turkish aircraft on a reconnaissance mission in what it described as a “hostile act”.

In his speech, Erdogan accused Greece of “trying to threaten us with the S-300 systems.”

Athens has denied the allegations and often accuses Ankara of flying over the Greek islands.

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Don’t forget Izmir

An angry Erdogan accused Greece of “occupying” demilitarized islands in the Aegean Sea.

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We have one word to say to Greece: Don’t forget Izmir [Smyrna in Greek]Erdogan said, referring to the end of the Greek occupation after Turkish forces entered the city on the Aegean coast in 1922.

“Your occupation of the islands does not bind us,” Erdogan said.

Ankara recently accused Athens of arming the demilitarized Aegean islands – something Athens rejects, but Erdogan has never accused Greece of occupying them.

In June, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara would challenge Greece’s sovereignty over the islands if it continued to send troops there.

The Aegean has a complex geography with more than 2,000 islands, most of which are Greek.

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The two countries were brought to the brink of war in the 1990s over two small uninhabited islands known collectively as Kardak in Turkish and Emia in Greek.

Erdogan cut off dialogue with Greece after accusing Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of lobbying against US arms sales to his country.

Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him, exasperated in May.

Greece and Turkey are also seeking US weapons.

In June, Greece formalized an order for US-made F-35 fighter jets.

Turkey is negotiating the purchase of F-16s after Washington kicked Ankara out of the F-35 program for receiving an advanced Russian missile defense system in 2019.

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