March 25, 2023

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said Sunday that a Greek surface-to-air missile was locked on a Turkish F-16 fighter jet on a reconnaissance mission in international airspace.

The allegation is Turkey’s latest statement that its neighbor and NATO member Greece has been targeting its aircraft over the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Sea.

Citing Defense Ministry sources, Anadolu said that on August 23, radars based on a Greek S-300 missile system based on Crete had locked onto the Turkish fighter jet.

The report added that the F-16 was at an altitude of 10,000 feet west of the Greek island of Rhodes when the Russian-made S-300’s target-tracking radar locked on. The Turkish planes completed their mission and returned to their base “despite the harsh conditions”.

It added that under NATO’s rules of engagement, radar lock-on is considered a hostile act.

Calls to the Greek embassy in Ankara went unanswered on Sunday.

Last week, Turkey summoned the Greek military attache and lodged a complaint with NATO after the Greek F-16s allegedly harassed Turkish F-16s on a mission for the alliance.

Anadolu said the Greek pilot put the Turkish plane under radar lock over the eastern Mediterranean. Anadolu said Turkey “made the necessary response” and forced the plane to leave the area, without elaborating.

Greece rejected the Turkish version of events. The Defense Ministry said five Turkish jets showed up without prior notice, accompanied by a U.S. B-52 bomber – supposed to be escorted by fighter jets – through an area under Greek flight control.

Four Greek fighter jets were rushed out of the Turkish plane, it said, adding that Athens had notified NATO and US authorities of the incident.

Although Turkey and Greece are both NATO members, there is a decades-old dispute over a range of issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and disputes over airspace there. These disputes have brought them to the brink of war three times in the past half century.

In 2020, tensions sparked over exploration and drilling rights in the Mediterranean region claimed by Greece and Cyprus in their exclusive economic zone, leading to a naval standoff.

Turkey has accused Greece of militarizing islands in the Aegean Sea, in violation of international agreements. Athens says it needs to defend the islands – many of which are close to the Turkish coast – from potential attack by Turkey’s large fleet of military landing craft.

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