Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Greek-Turkish tension in Aegean reaches highest point in years

The collision of Greek and Turkish coastguard vessels near the flashpoint islet of Imia in the east Aegean has raised tensions between the two countries to levels not seen in years.

“At around 23:40 yesterday [Monday], in the waters east of Imia, within Greek territorial waters, a Turkish vessel performed dangerous manoeuvres in contravention of international rules for the avoidance of collisions and rammed into the portside stern of the Greek naval vessel 090,” read a statement from the Hellenic coastguard on Tuesday.

The coastguard made no other official comment, but certain Greek media quoted government sources as saying that the Turkish vessel had attempted to ram the Greek vessel amidships.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schoinas said on Tuesday that “the Greek ship… is co-funded by the EC and the European Border and Coast Guard, so we’re talking about European taxpayer money.”  

The Turkish government said Greece was distorting the incident. Greek foreign ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas responded, “Along with moderation, Turkey has lost common sense. In addition to violating international law, it also displays ignorance of geography.”

Though uninhabited, Imia has acquired symbolic importance for both countries after they nearly went to war over it in 1996.

Monday night’s incident followed another offshore Cyprus on Sunday, when Turkish navy ships prevented a drilling rig from reaching its intended position. The rig, owned by Italian energy company ENI, was contracted by the Cypriot government to drill exploratory wells.

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