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Turkish fighter jets violate Greek airspace

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows Turkish F-16 jets

Turkish military planes have violated Greece's airspace over the Aegean islands multiple times, Greek media reports say.

Six Turkish fighter jets and a navy transport plane carried out over 20 airspace violations in the vicinity of eastern and central Aegean islands, the state-run Athens News Agency reported on Monday.

According to the report, two of the war planes were armed and twice engaged in mock dogfights with Greek planes that had scrambled to intercept them.

Greece and Turkey, both NATO members, are engaged in a centuries-old dispute over territorial and airspace ownership in the Aegean. In 1996, the two countries almost came to war over a cluster of uninhabited islets in the region.

The violation occurred as NATO prepares to launch naval patrols in the waters separating both countries in an attempt to ward off human smuggling vessels ferrying large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers into Europe.      

Athens has in the past voiced fears that Ankara could exploit the refugee crisis to bolster its military presence in the Aegean.

In 2015, over a million asylum seekers gained access to European shores via the Aegean, while many more perished during the perilous voyage.

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