ISTANBUL – Turkey on Sunday (Aug 28) said fellow Nato member Greece had used a Russian-made air defence system to harass Turkish jets on a reconnaissance mission in what it termed a “hostile action”.
The incident took place on August 23 when Greece’s S-300 missile system on the island of Crete put a lock on Turkish F-16 jets flying at 10,000 feet west of Rhodes, Turkish defence ministry sources said.
That was “incompatible with the spirit of (Nato) alliance” and amounted to “hostile acts” under the Nato rules of engagement, the sources added.
“Despite this hostile action, (Turkish) jets completed their planned missions and returned to their base safely.”
Greek defence ministry sources dismissed the allegations.
“Greece’s S-300 missile system has never put a lock on Turkish F-16 jets”, the sources said, according to state-run Ert television.
Turkey has in recent months complained of what it calls provocative actions by Greece, saying such moves undermine peace efforts.
The two uneasy Nato neighbours have long-standing sea and air boundary disputes which lead to near-daily air force patrols and interception missions mostly around Greek islands near Turkey’s coastline.
Athens accuses Ankara of overflying Greek islands.
Turkey says Greece is stationing troops on islands in the Aegean Sea in violation of peace treaties signed after World Wars I and II.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cut off dialogue with Greece after charging that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis lobbied against US arms sales to his country.
Washington has sanctioned Ankara for taking delivery of an advanced Russian missile defence system in 2019.
The purchase saw the United States drop Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter programme.
But President Joe Biden’s administration has signalled it may be willing to move past the dispute and there have been talks about F-16 purchases.
Turkish defence ministry sources said Greece also had purchased the Russian-made air defence system and accused Western countries, without naming them, of pursuing two-sided policies.
Athens is also eyeing US weaponry in an attempt to bolster its air force amid tensions with Ankara.
In June, Greece formalised a request for US-made F-35 fighter jets.