Turkey says it did a Top Gun style dogfight with Greeks over East Med

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Turkey’s Defense Ministry published a video on Friday alleging to show that its F-16s confronted Greek F-16s as the Greeks were heading from Crete towards an area where Turkey had declared a naval drill. The tensions are running high between the NATO members. NATO head Jens Stoltenberg phoned Turkey’s president and begged Turkey to do “de-confliction” with Athens.Meanwhile Egypt and Greece ratified a maritime deal and the UAE sent F-16s to Crete last week, all part of a wider support for Greece that has emerged amid Turkey’s threats. 

Turkey has threatened military actions and slandered Greece in recent weeks as Turkey lurches from crisis to crisis. Ankara’s ruling regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invaded Syria, bombed Iraq, sent mercenaries to Libya and now wants to muscle in to Greek waters using an energy ship as an excuse to send an armada of naval ships off Crete. Turkey declared a “Navtex” as a way to prevent Greece overflying turkey’s naval drills. It has used these international Navtex warnings before to cause tensions near Greek islands.  
The recent use of Turkish F-16s to warn off Greek F-16s was designed to put out a propaganda video to embarrass Greece as Athens secures more and more support in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s goals is to threaten and bluster and then appear to climb down via some kind of compromise. Turkey also attempts to create a new crisis every month. This was the crisis for August. Turkey may opt for a different crisis in September.  
The overall context is that Turkey signed a deal in November 2019 with the embattled government in Tripoli in Libya to back one side in a civil war. Then Turkey sent drones and weapons to Libya in violation of an arms embargo. After escalating in Libya Turkey almost got into a crisis with Egypt as Egypt drew a red line in Libya and demand Turkish-backed mercenaries stop their advance on Sirte. So Turkey pivoted to harassing Greek islands, such as Kastellorizo. Turkey also converted to historic churches to mosques which also angered Greece because of Greek-Orthodox connections to the churches, including Hagia Sophia which had been a museum. Now the EU is set to sanction Turkey over its aggression in the Mediterranean.  

Greece has received support from France, Cyprus, the UAE and Israel. Now Greece also has Greek support after a maritime deal that was ratified this week. Former Egyptian foreign minister Mohammed Orabi also said in the UAE this weekend that Abu Dhabi has an important role to play curbing Turkey’s role in the region.  

Meanwhile the French President Emmanuel Macron has also said he set red lines to stop Ankara in the Mediterranean. Germany’s government has also expressed support for Greece. Greek military exercises have backing from the UAE, Italy and France and Italy and Greece also ratified a deal this week. Israel and Greece and Cyprus have a pipeline deal.  

The response of Turkey to all this was to send its F-16s to try to humiliate Greece. Because Greece is getting a huge amount of diplomatic and military support, Turkey published the video asserting it intercepted the Greek aircraft. The video looks more like a dogfight in Top Gun and may momentarily make Turkey feel pleased with itself.  

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