Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (r) and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez shake hands after a joint news conference following talks at the presidential palace in Ankara, on Wednesday. [AP]
Turkish fighter jets engaged in mock dogfights with their Greek counterparts over the eastern Aegean Sea and conducted overflights and a barrage of airspace violations in a sudden escalation of tension on Thursday.
According to Greek military reports, three mock dogfights took place and a total of 57 airspace violations, four of which were overflights of Turkish F-16s above the islets of Agathonisi, Makronisi and Anthropofagoi.
The barrage was attributed, to a degree, to the multiple exercises that are currently taking place in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean between the Hellenic Armed Forces with those of the US, Egypt, France, Italy and others.
At the same time, Friday’s quadripartite meeting between Greece, France, Egypt and Cyprus at the level of foreign ministers in Athens has also reportedly vexed Ankara.
What’s more, the largest ever movement of the US Armed Forces through Alexandroupoli – connecting Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean with Eastern Europe and the Black Sea – is expected in the coming days.
Meanwhile, there was skepticism and annoyance in Athens on Thursday over the helping hand that Madrid seems to be giving Ankara amid a general debate taking place in Europe and the West on the need to limit military exports to Turkey.
Spain’s decision to conduct military transactions with Turkey has been attributed in Athens to the huge exposure of the Spanish banking system to the Turkish economy, which is under constant pressure.
Nonetheless, Athens is still finding it difficult to understand why Pedro Sanchez’s government is rushing to throw a lifeline to Recep Tayyip Erdogan at such a juncture.
The pro-Turkish agenda in terms of arms sales by the Sanchez government was reportedly raised last May by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis himself, when his Spanish counterpart visited Athens.