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Ankara continues escalating tensions

Athens has lodged a strongly worded demarche with the Turkish ambassador to Greece after two Turkish F-16 fighter jets violated Greek airspace, approaching just 2.5 nautical miles from the northeastern port city of Alexandroupoli.

The Foreign Ministry is also briefing Greece’s allies and partners, as well as the European Union, NATO, and the United Nations, about the aerial incursion that occurred on Wednesday night.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the unprecedented violation of Greece’s national sovereignty by two Turkish fighter aircraft, which illegally entered our national airspace and approached Alexandroupoli within a distance of just 2.5 nautical miles,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, stressing that the incident “constitutes a clear escalation of Turkish provocative conduct.”

“It is part of Turkey’s effort to promote its neo-Ottoman revisionism, violating all the fundamental rules of international law,” it said, noting that it undermines NATO’s cohesion and urgent priorities while also posing a clear threat to the EU at a critical juncture, “as the port of Alexandroupoli is a key hub for the transport of troops and equipment to reinforce our allies.”

Turkey has long violated Greek airspace but the violations so close to Alexandroupoli have been described as “unprecedented.”

Alexandroupoli’s port is being used to send troops to Bulgaria and Romania – the NATO member-states most exposed to the effects of the war in Ukraine – and Turkey’s incursions suggest to Athens that Ankara does not take into account the need to maintain an image of NATO’s cohesion, even in the midst of a more general mobilization.

Above all, however, the violations are seen as expressing Turkey’s annoyance over the transformation of Alexandroupoli into a route that bypasses the Dardanelles for the movement of NATO troops, but also into an energy hub for the transfer, in time, of LNG to the markets of the Balkans and Central Europe.

What’s more, Alexandroupoli’s importance has been emphasized throughout the past period by all the American officials who have dealt with Greece, while it was also highlighted by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his talks with US President Joe Biden and in his speech on Tuesday to the Joint Session of US Congress.