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Confrontations between Turkish and Greek military warplanes escalated sharply in 2014, Metin Gurcan reports for Al-Monitor citing anonymous Turkish military officials.
In the first month of 2014 alone, Turkish jets apparently violated Greek airspace 1,017 times. This was twice the number of total airspace violations between the two countries for the first half of 2013. Both are members of NATO.
These incidents have become so routine, Gurcan notes, that “reports of mock dogfights between Greek and Turkish warplanes over the Aegean Sea are now listed in the ‘Daily Activities‘ section of the official website of Turkey’s chief of general staff.”
The incidents almost entirely take place over the Aegean Sea, the island-filled stretch of water separating Turkey and Greece. The countries’ exact maritime boundaries are still a matter of disagreement.
“The question of sovereignty over the Aegean in simplest terms is the difference between Greek territorial waters of six nautical miles and the 10-nautical-mile airspace Greece claims,” Gurcan writes. “The conflict arises when Turkey recognizes the Greek national airspace over the Aegean as six miles and flies its planes within the 10-mile airspace claimed by Greece.”
These disputes over the Aegean have simmered and have hampered attempts for the two nations to fully normalize ties. Turkey still considers what it believes to be any Greek attempt to unilaterally expand its maritime claims in the Aegean as a cause for war, despite both countries being in NATO.
The tensions between Turkey and Greece mirror a general increase in hostilities throughout the eastern Mediterranean.
Cyprus has vowed to stay out of peace talks over the island’s final status after Turkey sent a research ship to look for natural gas off of the north coast of the island. Cyprus is split between a Greek-backed south and a Turkish Cypriot North. Natural gas was discovered off of its coasts in late 2011.
Turkey maintains that any natural gas found off of the shores of Cyprus should be shared equally with both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. But a flagging Cyprus peace process, conflicting maritime claims in the Aegean, and controversy over Cypriot gas could all raise the temperature between Greece and Turkey in the coming year.
Greek and Turkish F-16 fighter jets have crashed into the southern Aegean Sea after colliding in mid-air.
The Greek pilot was killed, while the Turkish pilot was rescued after ejecting safely, Turkish officials say.
The collision, near Karpathos island, occurred after Greece scrambled a jet to intercept the Turkish aircraft, a Greek spokesman said.
Despite a thaw in recent years, the two neighbours have a long-standing territorial dispute over the Aegean.
Turkey insists Greek airspace extends only 10km (6 miles) offshore, not 16km (10 miles) as Greece maintains.
In the past, the two have come close to armed conflict over the dispute.
The two foreign ministers expressed their regret for today's incident
Greek foreign ministry
The incident occurred at about 27,000 ft (8,000 m), some 21 miles (34 km) southeast of Karpathos.
Greek government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the planes had gone down after touching wing tips.
"It was likely an interception operation," he said.
The BBC's Richard Galpin in Athens says interception attempts happen frequently, with the two sides shadowing each other and even staging mock dog fights in their disputed air space.
Nato has previously warned the two member states that these are dangerous.
The collision spotted by passengers on board a plane travelling to Cairo, according to eyewitnesses quoted on Greek television.
The Turkish pilot survived and was repatriated by helicopter
They reportedly saw an explosion in the sky.
The Turkish pilot was picked up by a passing merchant ship, Turkish officials said.
He was later flown home by an army helicopter. But the officials said the Greek pilot had died in the collision.
This has not been confirmed by the Greek government. However officials in Athens told the BBC they believe the pilot did not eject - and therefore may have died.
A search and rescue operation will continue for 72 hours, they said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul conveyed his country's condolences to his Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyanni in a telephone conversation, the foreign ministry in Ankara said.
"The two foreign ministers expressed their regret at today's incident and agreed that this should not affect the two countries' efforts to improve their relations," a Greek foreign ministry statement said.