Greece accuses Turkey of disrupting a plane carrying its foreign minister from Iraq

Greece accused Turkey on Thursday of deliberately disrupting a government plane carrying its foreign minister from Iraq and leaving it flying for 20 minutes before granting it permission to cross Turkish airspace.

Turkey denied the accusation, saying the plane took off from Iraq without a specific flight path, but was allowed to pass after that route was clarified.

Tensions have escalated between the two countries, the two partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which are locked in a dispute over the maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean, with each claiming sovereignty over sea areas believed to be rich in gas.

“It is another provocation in the series of Turkish provocations… I hope the incident will not be repeated in the future,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

He added that the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs had lodged a complaint with the Turkish authorities.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hami Aksoy, rejected the suggestion that the plane carrying Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was deliberately disrupted to provoke Athens.

He said, “The aircraft in question took off from Iraq without providing a specific flight path”. 

When the plane entered our airspace, we asked the Iraqi authorities for the flight path quickly, and the flight proceeded safely after obtaining it.

He stated that Turkey had accepted a Greek request to allow the minister’s plane to pass through its airspace on its way to Iraq on October 14th.

He said that after that plane crashed in Iraq, Greece sent a second plane that was also granted permission to fly in Turkish airspace “with the same flight permit number without any delay”.

For its part, Germany and France condemned on Thursday Turkey’s new “unacceptable” provocations in the eastern Mediterranean that might expose it to European sanctions in the event that Ankara does not return to the “principle of dialogue”.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared at the end of a meeting with his German and Polish counterparts, “We note that Turkey has continued to undertake intolerable provocative actions. 

We really want Turkey to clarify its positions and return to the principle of dialogue”.

For his part, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that the return of a Turkish vessel for gas exploration to Greek waters is “a clear provocation that is totally unacceptable”.

The two ministers said that the European Union had asked Turkey to stop its provocations until the European summit in December, under threat of sanctions.

“The ball is in Ankara’s stadium,” Le Drian said .

We are ready to accept the balance of power in the event that new provocations by Turkey continue, even if our common goal is to establish a real dialogue with Turkey,” he added.

Maas spoke of a “week” period for Turkey to change its stance. 

After that, he declared, “the European Union decides the position that should be taken”.

The issue will also be addressed during the European summit on Thursday and Friday in Brussels.

On Monday, Turkey sent the ship “Oruj Reis” to the eastern Mediterranean to support the Athens protests.

The redeployment of this ship reveals Ankara’s ambitions in the gas riches of the eastern Mediterranean, and this contributed to striking hopes to defuse the crisis after weeks of intense tension between Turkey and Greece during the months of August and September.