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Greece accuses Turkey of deliberately blocking flight path of foreign minister’s plane as rivals feud over maritime claims

Greece accuses Turkey of deliberately blocking flight path of foreign minister’s plane as rivals feud over maritime claims
Ankara denied wrongdoing after Athens claimed a government aircraft was prevented from passing through Turkish airspace. The incident comes amid rising tensions between the two nations over maritime rights in the Mediterranean.

Greece said on Thursday that a plane carrying its foreign minister back home from Iraq was forced to circle for 20 minutes before it received permission to cross into Turkish skies. Ankara insists the aircraft had not properly registered a flight plan and was allowed to proceed once it had informed Turkish authorities where it was going. Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said that a plane originally intended to transport the Greek foreign minister had malfunctioned in Iraq, and that Turkish authorities quickly granted permission to a back-up aircraft to make the journey instead, once it was made aware of the situation.

However, Athens alleges that there were sinister motives behind the delay. A spokesman for the Greek government described the episode as “one more provocation in Turkey’s series of provocations,” and said the foreign ministry had relayed its displeasure over the incident to Ankara.

The finger-pointing follows weeks of mounting hostility between the two longtime rivals, who are sparring over contested waters in the Eastern Mediterranean believed to be rich in oil and gas.  

Tensions were briefly defused after Turkey announced it would return a survey vessel exploring the disputed area to port. However, the ship resumed operations earlier this week, prompting condemnation from Athens, as well as Washington and Berlin.

Separately on Thursday, France and Germany called on Turkey to state its intentions in the disputed waters, accusing Ankara of provoking the European Union with its actions.

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