Tue, May 23, 2006
ANN REALTIME REPORTING 05.23.06 1330 EDT: One pilot is still
unaccounted for after two F-16s -- one Greek, the other from NATO
ally but historic rival Turkey -- collided over a disputed
section of the southern Aegean Sea Tuesday. The Turkish pilot was
able to eject safely and has been rescued, but helicopter crews are
still searching for the pilot of the Greek jet -- one of two
that was scrambled to intercept three Turkish aircraft.
Media reports indicate Greece sent two F-16s to intercept two
Turkish F-16s and an RF-4 reconnaisance jet that had flown
into the Athens "flight information region", a
disputed area over the Aegean Sea. The two countries have
a long-standing dispute over the Aegean, with Turkey insisting that
Greek airspace only extends six miles offshore, and Greece
maintaining its authority extends 10 miles out.
The midair collision comes after years of similar interception
exercises in the area. The two countries have come close to armed
conflict in the past over the dispute.
"It was likely an interception operation," Greek government
spokesman Evangelos Antonaro told the BBC, adding the planes may
have touched wingtips.
In past interception exercises, pilots on both sides have
shadowed each other, and have even staged mock dogfights -- a
practice that NATO has warned both sides could be dangerous.
Foreign ministers from Greece and Turkey were quick to downplay
the potential for escalated tensions in the wake of the
"The two foreign ministers expressed their regret at today's
incident and agreed that this should not affect the two countries'
efforts to improve their relations," the Greek Foreign Ministry
said, after Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul called his Greek
counterpart, Dora Bakoyann.
Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul added that military
officials from both countries are discussing the ramifications of
"We are also waiting for exact information," he said.
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