Turkey accuses Greece of locking onto jets with Russian missile system

Greece used a Russian-made air defence system to lock onto jets flying in international airspace over the eastern Mediterranean, sources at Turkey’s defence ministry said on Sunday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The S-300 system locked onto the Turkish F-16 planes on Aug. 23, the officials said.

The Greek “harassment” was a "hostile act" according to the NATO rules of engagement, the sources said. “The planes completed their planned missions and returned to their bases safely," they added.

Greek defence ministry sources denied that any such incident took place.

Military and diplomatic tensions between Greece and Turkey have heightened this year amid accusations from Turkey that Greece is militarising its islands near the Turkish coastline in contravention of international agreements. Greece denies the charges. Ankara accuses U.S. and European politicians of unfairly taking Greece’s side in the dispute.

“Greece’s S-300 missile system has never put a lock on Turkish F-16 jets,” the Greek defence ministry sources said, according to Greece's state-run Ert television, Agence France-Presse reported.  A source from the Greek ministry said Turkey was trying to make “fake news”, Bloomberg reported.

Anadolu said Greece possessed and is using the S-300 system at a time when Turkey is under U.S. sanctions for its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence missiles in 2019, which it has not activated. Turkey has yet to integrate the weapons into its defence architecture and has requested that the United States enter talks to resolve the issue.    

Radar locks occur when a ground, air or sea-based radar system locks onto and follows a potential target to more accurately strike it.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as persona non grata after Mitsotakis called on U.S. legislators during a visit to Washington D.C. in May to think twice about approving arms sales to Turkey. Erdoğan is seeking Senate approval for a defence contract to modernise F-16 fighter jets and to buy the latest models of the plane.

Robert Menendez, chairman of the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, said last week that Turkey was a "persistent and proximate threat in the Eastern Mediterranean" and "should not see the possibility of having any superior weapons sold to it by the USA.” He spoke upon receiving an honorary doctorate degree from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Greek Reporter news website said on Friday.

Menendez said his opposition to the weapons sales was sourced in the number of lawyers and journalists in Turkish jails, overflights of Greek airspace, impeding Greece’s right over its exclusive economic zone to drill for energy deposits, creating challenges in Libya and seeking new attacks in Syria.

(This story was updated with U.S. senator's comments in the final two paragraphs.)  

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