Athens has denied a report suggesting that its joint military maneuver with Israel was in ‘preparation’ for an aerial strike on Iran.
“The exercise has no connection with Israeli ‘preparations’ for an attack on Iran, as has been inaccurately reported,” said Greek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos.
Remarks by the Greek official follow the recent publication of a report by The New York Times, which quoted Pentagon officials as saying that over 100 Israeli F-16s and F-15s staged a maneuver over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece from May 28 to June 12.
According to the report, Israeli jets flew over 900 miles, roughly the distance from their airfields to a nuclear enrichment facility in the central Iranian city of Natanz, giving rise to speculation that Tel Aviv is making preparations for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Israeli planes flew at high altitudes not consistent with a military strike and the exercise had no provision for dealing with anti-aircraft fire, did not include electronic warfare or surveillance aircraft and did not involve live ammunition, the Greek official added.
Roussopoulos further explained that such exercises have previously been conducted by Israeli warplanes over Greece, Cyprus and Turkey and that the scope and the terrain of the maneuver did not indicate a link with Iran.
Israeli aircraft flew at such high altitudes ‘which would not have been the case had the nature of the exercise been aggressive’, he said.
The Greek defense ministry had earlier issued a statement, reassuring that its military maneuver with Israel was carried out within the framework of Greece-Israel military cooperation and was by no means aimed at preparing for hostile action.
Israel, widely known as the sole possessor of 200 to 400 nuclear warheads in the Middle East, has recently stepped up its rhetoric against Iran and is believed to be preparing the public for an attack on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear installations.
On June 6, a day after the military exercise, Israeli deputy prime minister Shaoul Mofaz told the Yediot Aharonot that Tel Aviv would attack Iran if the country did not halt its nuclear activities.
While the US and Israel accuse Tehran of making efforts to produce nuclear weapons, the most recent UN nuclear watchdog report on Tehran has conceded that there is no link between the use of nuclear material and ‘the alleged studies’ of weaponization attributed to Iran by Western countries.