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The Greek Prime Minister says Turkish jets forced his helicopter to reduce altitude



Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras participates in a student parade on 25 March 201

9 during a visit to Agathonisi Island, Greece, on Independence Day in Greece. Andrea Bonetti / Greek Prime Minister's Press Office / Handout on REUTERS

ATHENS (Reuters) Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Turkish jets had flown to a Greek island on Monday to celebrate the anniversary of the 1821 uprising against Ottoman rule Turkey said there was no attempt to intercept its escape.

"They forced the helicopter, which I just had to fly low, until Greek jets intercept the troops that are violating our national airspace," Tsipras said in a speech the island of Agathonisi, a few miles from the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

"The message I want to send you is that such foolish acts are meaningless, they do not pay for their gas, we will always be there to to defend our national integrity. "

A Greek military officer told Reuters, the Greek F-16-Kam Airplanes had intercepted the Turkish jets about four miles away from Tsipras' helicopters.

A Turkish security source said the Turkish jets would perform routine operations. "During today's work of the Greek Prime Minister, Turkish fighter planes have not intercepted," the source said.

Although NATO allies, Turkey and Greece, were in disagreement for a long time, there were problems between ethnically divided Cyprus, airspace and rights over air traffic. Relations have worsened since Greece blocked the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers accused of involvement in a failed 2016 military coup.

Reports by Lefteris Papadimas in Athens and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Hugh Lawson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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