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Turkey air force pulls out of NATO’s military exercise in Greece set for next month

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)
An F-16 Fighting Falcon of the Turkish Air Force takes off on a sortie from an air base during Exercise Anatolian Eagle, in Konya, Turkey. (Courtesy of Turkish Ministry of Defense)

Turkey will not participate in NATO’s annual drills in Greece next month, security sources say, amid a simmering standoff between Ankara and Athens over sea boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.

Citing security sources, Turkey's official Anadolu news agency said on Saturday that the country’s air force had pulled out of the military exercise - dubbed “Tiger Meet” - and thus, it would not send its F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to the drills, which will be held at Araxos Air Base in western Greece from May 9 to May 22.

Turkish media said the Air Force Command considered that the wording used by Greece in technical documentation relating to Tiger Meet was contrary to international law and demanded that it be changed, a request that was rejected by Greece.

Anadolu said that Athens had “exploited its disagreements with Ankara and targeted Turkey by making changes to the drill’s technical regulations.”

Sources said “Greece manipulates Tiger Meet for its political interests.”

Ankara, according to the sources, notified Athens of its decision, made on April 22 due to “provocation”, on not participating in Tiger Meet, which is said to be intended to promote solidarity between fleets of the participating member states.

“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,” Turkish pro-government Sabah daily quoted a security source as saying.

On Friday, Turkey accused Greek warplanes of violating its airspace over the Aegean Sea, which Turkish security sources said happened 30 times in 72 hours.

Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads for years over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the eastern Mediterranean. 

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