Turkey's defence minister pilots F-16 fighter jet over Aegean Sea as tensions with Greece intensify

Turkey's defence minister pilots F-16 fighter jet over Aegean Sea as tensions with Greece intensify
'We are not seeking tension,' claimed Turkey's defence minister after flying a fighter jet over the Aegean Sea, where tensions with Greece are running high.
2 min read
03 September, 2020
Hulusi Akar prepares for take-off [Ministry of National Defence of Turkey/Efe Ilban/Handout]
Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Wednesday piloted an F-16 fighter jet over the northern Aegean Sea, where a dispute over maritime borders and gas drilling rights with Greece is brewing.
The defence ministry published a video of the outing at the air operations centre in Eskisehir province. 

It showed Akar dressed in pilot gear, boarding the  jet with a co-pilot before taking off and flying over the Dardanelles strait in the north Aegean, in formation with two other planes.

The plane also flew over the Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial, a statue honouring the 253,000 Turkish soldiers who fought on behalf of the Ottoman Empire against the UK and France in the First World War's Battle of Gallipoli campaign.

In a tweet, the ministry said the trip was to mark the start of the pilot training this year, however Turkey has been staging a range of military exercises near the disputed area in recent weeks, where tensions with Greece have been running high.

In a press conference following the flight, Akar denied Turkey was seeking to fuel the dispute with Greece and other eastern Mediterranean nations.

"We are not seeking tension or bullying. We clearly and explicitly chase our rights and interests with belief, knowledge, logic, science, and law. Nobody can prevent this," Akar said.

Turkey reacted angrily to the US decision on Tuesday to lift an arms embargo on Cyprus.

The ongoing dispute has reignited the fierce rivalry in the eastern Mediterranean region beween Turkey and Greece.

Read also: Desires for Eastern Mediterranean clout drive offers to rebuild Beirut's port

Ankara has in recent weeks resumed gas and oil exploration activities in waters claimed by Athens. Turkey disputes the delineation of maritime borders in the region.

Both Greece and Turkey have staged naval drills in the area to assert their claims.

An intervention by France, which send frigates and fighter jets to the Greek side, prompted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call the French leader "greedy and incompetent".

The European Union has threatened sanctions against Turkey if it refuses to stop military and energy exploration activities in the disputed waters. The EU counts Cyprus and Greece among its members.

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