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Turkish provocation over the Aegean

May 3, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Over 15 Turkish fighter jets have reportedly violated the Athens FIR (Flight Information Regions) this morning in the north and south Aegean, when Greek Minister of Defense Spilios Spiliotopoulos was on board of an F-16 fighter jet flying over the northeastern Aegean island of Limnos.
According to information from the Greek Ministry of Defense, at least six dogfights were recorded involving Greek and Turkish fighter jets.

Later reports by Athens radio station "Flash" also indicated that Turkish F-16 fighter jets harassed Greek A-7 Corsairs over the island of Kastelorizo, southeastern Aegean.

In this other event, the Turkish jets approached a formation of three Greek A-7 bombers at an altitude of 4,000ft and with a distance of just 10 meters.

They also said that 18 Turkish fighter jets made a total of 10 violations of the Greek airspace today.

About the FIR

In order to facilitate international air transport, the global airspace was divided into Flight Information Regions (FIR), and air traffic control responsibilities are assigned to the "Air Traffic Services Authorities" of the respective states. A country's FIR may correspond to its national airspace but it can also extend over international airspace.

In 1952, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), established by the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation (1944), defined the FIR limits of European countries while regional plans were drawn up in 1952 and 1958 in Paris and Geneva, respectively. At that time ICAO also defined the limits of Greece's and European Turkey's FIRs, known as "Athinai FIR" and "Istanbul FIR."

The Athens FIR covers airspace extending from the Ionian sea in the west to the Creek-Turkish borders in the east. The eastern limits are defined by a line passing between the Greek islands of the Aegean and the Turkish islands and mainland coast, bordering the outer edge of the Turkish territorial waters. Thus, the Athens FIR covers the whole of Greece's airspace plus scattered sections of international airspace.

In accordance with the ICAO regulations and with international practice, all aircraft, civil and military alike, must submit proper notification before crossing the FIR boundary.