Turkey to boycott NATO drill – media — Analysis
Turkey won’t participate in NATO drills due to escalating tensions between Greece and Turkey, Turkish media reports on Saturday. They cited security sources. Ankara was scheduled to send its F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to the annual ‘Tiger Meet’ drill, which will be held at Araxos Air Base in western Greece from May 9 to May 22.
According to reports, the Turkish Air Force Command deemed that the Greek technical documentation concerning the drills contained language that was not in accordance with international law. They demanded it be altered by Greece, who refused.
“Despite all of Turkey’s attempts and conciliatory efforts, Greece, which could not tolerate even its neighbor’s participation in an exercise in its country, moved the exercise away from the purpose of friendship and interoperability and tried to use it against Turkey’s rights and interests,” a security source claimed, as quoted by Sabah newspaper.
Turkish media reported that Turkey had decided to withdraw from the drills, and did so on April 22.
Some reports indicate that Turkey was not allowed to take part in NATO exercises because of Turkey’s frequent violations of Greek airspace. According to the Voice of America’s report, Greece revoked Turkey’s planned participation in ‘Tiger Meet’, saying Turkey was “We are not an ally or a friend..”
On Thursday, the Greek Foreign Ministry expressed to the Turkish ambassador its strong protest over “Unprecedented number of airspace violations in Greece and flight overflights over Greek territory within one day.”
While the exact number was not stated in the statement, it is believed that at least 125 illegal flights were reported to authorities within 24 hours.
The ministry underlined that “These acts create tensions in relations between countries which is contrary to all efforts to ameliorate the climate.”
Turkish authorities claimed that they were taking retaliatory actions for Greek planes’ violation of Turkish airspace. Ankara claimed on Thursday that Athens had violated its airspace “In three days, you can do it 30 times.”
This is just one point of contention between Athens and Ankara. Athens regards the Eastern Mediterranean as its continental shelf, and Greece placed its military under high alert last year due to seismic explorations by Turkey.
Last month’s meeting of Greek Prime Minister Kiryakos Mitsotakis with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was considered by many as a promising event but, since then, Greece has reportedly suspended ‘confidence-building’ negotiations with Turkish officials, which were planned for May.