In harassing a Turkish scientific research vessel in the Aegean Sea, Greek fighter jets perpetrated a “provocative” act, the spokesperson of Turkey’s ruling party said on Tuesday.

“The Greek jets came within such close range and the action that they took is no doubt a provocative action,” Omer Celik told reporters in the capital Ankara after a meeting of the Justice and Development (AK) Party’s Central Executive Board.

Urging Greece to abstain from such behavior, Celik said Turkey has given an adequate response within the framework of the “necessary rules.”

He said the incident, which occurred in international waters in the northern Aegean Sea, was not conducive to the positive atmosphere created with the recent resumption of exploratory talks between the two countries.

“We’re not responsible for this either,” he said.

Stressing that Turkey aims to turn the Aegean into a sea of peace, he said the two sides need to come up with a mutually beneficial solution to the dispute.

“Let’s keep diplomatic channels open. Let’s meet. Let’s negotiate. Turkey has sufficient expertise and capacity,” he stressed.

Earlier on Tuesday, one of four Greek fighter jets that approached the TCG Cesme west of Lemnos Island launched a chaff cartridge from a distance of two nautical miles (2.3 miles), according to security sources.

The Turkish ship, which was engaged in hydrographic surveying activities at the time, is slated to continue its scientific and technical research in the region until March 2.

Greece has continued to escalate tensions in the region despite the restart of exploratory talks between Ankara and Athens earlier this year, according to Turkish sources.

Since the talks began on Jan. 25, at least 20 Greek vessels and numerous air elements have carried out military exercises in the area, including in international waters northwest of Skyros island.

Greece also issued notices of submarine activities on Feb. 10-17, placing the islands of Bozbaba (Agios Efstratios), Samothrace, Limnos, Thasos, Lesbos, Chios, Psara, Ahikeria, and Samos – which hold demilitarized status – as being within its territorial waters.

It also issued a notice that its submarines would hold a practice-fire exercise in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean between March 17 and April 27, again declaring Bozbaba, Samothrace, Limnos, Lesbos, Chios, Psara, as well as Meis, which also has a demilitarized status, as being within its territorial waters.

Security experts have described Greece’s activities as a clear indication of stoking tensions and aversion to compromise, negotiations, and dialogue.

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue, and negotiations.

Diyarbakir protests

On a sit-in protest in southeastern Turkey by families seeking the return of their children kidnapped by the YPG/PKK terror group, Celik said 24 of these families had reunited with their children.

“Hopefully, we wish for all the families to reunite with their children,” said the ruling party official.

Families of children abducted or forcibly recruited by the PKK terror group have been protesting in Diyarbakir province, calling on their children to lay down arms and surrender to authorities.

The protest began on Sept. 3, 2019 when three mothers said their children had been forcibly recruited by PKK terrorists. The sit-in outside the office of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which the government accuses of having links to the PKK, has been consistently growing ever since.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian branch.

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