Several Greek Air Force F-16s, which had been dispatched to escort a passing NATO B-52 bomber, diverted from their mission to intercept and expel four Turkish fighter jets that had entered the Athens Flight Information Region on 29 August – a zone where Greece takes over air traffic management. Greece's national defence agency called the actions of the Turkish Air Force "provocative and anti-ally".
Full trip of the B-52 earlier. A leisurely tour of Europe pic.twitter.com/EFF8Jfk635— Zaes (@ZaesADSB) August 28, 2020
The flight of the B-52 bomber is a part of the "Allied Sky" mission, under which six such bombers crossed the airspace of 30 NATO states in a show of solidarity. The B-52 escorted by the Greek F-16s was transitioning from Turkish airspace, where it had been escorted by the Ankaran forces, as well as performing a mid-air refueling. It is unclear if the four Turkish fighter jets were those escorting the NATO bomber, or why they approached so close to Greek aerial borders.
Greek-Turkish Tensions in Eastern Mediterranean
A day prior to the encounter, the Turkish Defence Ministry reported that its F-16s had been scrambled to intercept six Greek F-16 fighter jets on 27 August after they approached the Turkish NAVITEX zone – an area close to shore and covered by a NAVITEX ship navigation system. The Greek fighter jets were flying from Crete to the southern part of Cyprus when the Turkish Air Force deployed its F-16s.
Tensions between the two countries intensified as they put their militaries on alert amid a re-emerging row over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey recently announced that it would restart seismic surveys for fossil fuel resources in the waters off of Cyprus, which it claims it owns via an agreement unrecognized by Athens. As Athens does not recognise Ankara's claims, its European allies have thrown their support behind Greece while urging both sides to resolve the issue via dialogue. In a recent statement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that all European Union countries have an obligation to support Greece in this conflict, adding that she has discussed the issue "intensely" with French President Emmanuel Macron.