Turkey rejects Greek accusations of illegal overflights

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Thursday rejected accusations that its warplanes conducted unauthorized military flights over Greek islands, pointing the finger at fellow NATO-member Greece instead.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said accusations made by Greece “do not reflect the truth” and insisted that it was Greece’s air force that carried out “provocative flights” near Turkey’s coast, allegedly violating its airspace repeatedly over the southwestern towns of Didim, Datca and Dalaman.

“While Greece is the party which started and escalated the tension — accusing our country of unfounded allegations is incompatible with the recent positive agenda and good neighborly relations between the two countries,” the Turkish statement read.

Turkey and Greece have long-standing sea and air boundary disputes that intensified with moves to explore potential undersea natural gas reserves.

The disagreement has resulted in near-daily air force patrols and interception missions, mostly in disputed airspace around Greek islands that are near Turkey’s coastline.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday he contacted NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to report the alleged airspace violations by Turkey that he said included unauthorized flights over several large Greek islands.

“I made it clear to Secretary-General Stoltenberg that this type of behavior by a NATO ally in the southeast flank of the alliance is simply unacceptable. It undermines European security as well as the unity of purpose of NATO,” Mitsotakis said.

Mitsotakis made the comments at a meeting with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

On Wednesday, Turkey’s ambassador to Athens was summoned to Greece’s Foreign Ministry to receive a complaint about the unauthorized military flights.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry called on Greece to “stop provocative actions and rhetoric” and to support recently-resumed talks that aim to build confidence between the two countries.

“There is no change in Turkey’s attitude toward resolving all Aegean disputes, including the width of the airspace, within the framework of a sincere dialog, in accordance with international law,” the ministry statement read.

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