Greece’s PM says his helicopter was harassed by Turkish fighter jets
Alexis Tsipras was visiting the eastern Aegean island of Agathonissi.
Greece’s prime minister has said Turkish fighter jets harassed the helicopter he was travelling on during a visit to a remote Greek island to celebrate independence day.
Alexis Tsipras said he was “welcomed” by Turkish fighter jets violating Greek airspace during his arrival on Monday on the small eastern Aegean island of Agathonissi.
The move forced the helicopter pilot to carry out low manoeuvres until Greek fighter jets arrived to deflect the Turkish aircraft, Mr Tsipras said.
Greece and Turkey have long had tense relations and are divided over several issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean.
Athens often complains that Turkish fighter jets violate its airspace.
Mr Tsipras stressed Greece is committed to dialogue and cooperation with Turkey.
However, he said if necessary “we will do what our ancestors taught us, to defend our country”.
“A short while ago I had the honour of being welcomed here on Agathonissi by some fighter jets from the Turkish airforce,” Mr Tsipras said during a speech on the island.
“They wanted to also participate in our national celebration.”
The prime minister was on the island to celebrate the anniversary of Greece’s 1821 revolution against the Ottoman Empire, the precursor to modern-day Turkey.
“They must know that these silly actions make no sense. They waste kerosene and petrol,” Mr Tsipras said of Turkey.
“Firstly because we will always be there to defend our national integrity.
“Secondly because the Greek prime minister will be on the most isolated island of our country, at the most isolated border area, even if he has to swim there,” he added.
The two neighbours and Nato allies have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, over the divided island of Cyprus and territorial issues in the Aegean, although they have also enjoyed periods of relatively good ties.