Turkey warns Greek minister off Aegean islets

Turkey warns Greek minister off Aegean islets

Turkey warns Greek minister off Aegean islets

The Turkish Coast Guard on Jan. 28 blocked Greece’s defense minister from approaching a pair of disputed islets in the Aegean Sea, according to Turkey’s Interior Ministry.

Coast guard officers warned off Panos Kammenos, who was heading to the Kardak (Imia) islets in an assault boat to lay a wreath there for three Greek military personnel who died during the 1996 Kardak crisis.

Following the warning, the Greek boat left Turkey’s territorial waters without further incident, the ministry added.

In a statement, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said the coast guard units “did what was necessary.”

The Turkish General Staff also said in a written statement that the Greek naval vessel Nikiforos and a Greek Coast Guard boat had been moving toward the islets at 11:30 a.m. local time.

Their approach was blocked by Turkish Naval Forces and Coast Guard units, said the military.

It added that the Turkish Armed Forces continue to determinedly protect the nation’s rights and interests stemming from international law and agreements.

There have been several reported incidents of confrontations between Turkish and Greek naval ships around the disputed islets over the past weeks.

On Jan. 27, a Turkish Coast Guard boat prevented one Greek battleship from approaching the disputed islets. Following the stand-off, which lasted for around half an hour, the Greek battleship left the area and headed toward the Greek island of Kalimnos.

Also earlier this month, a Turkish patrol boat and a Greek gunboat collided near the islets on Jan. 17. There was no damage to the collided boats and nobody was hurt in the incident.

On Jan. 3, the Turkish Coast Guard prevented one Greek battleship and two Greek coast guard boats from approaching the disputed islets of Kardak.

The boats were 30 meters apart and ran parallel to each other off the coast of Bodrum’s Turgutreis neighborhood along the southern Aegean coast.

The islets, named Kardak in Turkish and “Imia” in Greek, are a pair of two small uninhabited rocks in the Aegean Sea, situated between the Greek island chain of the Dodecanese and the southwestern mainland coast of Turkey.

A decades-long dispute between Turkey and Greece over the uninhabited Aegean islets brought the two countries to the brink of armed conflict in 1996, when the two countries sent marines to two neighboring islands in a sign of an imminent armed confrontation.

They then withdrew their troops after heavy diplomatic pressure by the United States.