Turkish top soldiers’ visit to Kardak islets triggers Greek reaction
Yorgo Kirbaki – ATHENS
AA photoGreece has criticized the Jan. 29 visit of Turkey’s top brass to the Aegean islets of Kardak, which is claimed by both countries, describing it as a “serious violation.”
Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, accompanied by the commanders of the land, naval and air forces, on Jan. 29 paid a visit with two assault boats to the disputed Aegean islets of Kardak, the Turkish Armed Forces announced on the same day.
In reaction to the move, Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos said the visit was a “serious violation,” adding that he hoped it would not be repeated again.
“What has been done is a serious violation. Not only are Greek territorial waters infringed upon, but also those of Europe and the Lausanne agreement too,” said Pavlopoulos during a visit to Portugal.
“I hope such an act will not be repeated in the future because such an act will have repercussions on not only bilateral relations but also Turkey-European Union relations,” he added.
During the visit, the military quoted Akar as saying that Turkey had always regarded friendship and peace in all of its activities in the Aegean in terms of the mission to prevent its interests at sea.
The islets, Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish, are two small uninhabited rocks in the Aegean Sea, situated between the Greek island chain of the Dodecanese and the southwestern mainland coast of Turkey. Greece and Turkey nearly went to war over the islets in 1996 in an escalation that resulted in both sides landing soldiers on an islet each.
The Greek president also said he would like to remind “friendly and neighboring Turkey that it needs to respect history, friendship and good neighborhood [relations].”
Following the Turkish army’s statement, the Greek Defense Ministry said on Jan. 29 that a Turkish navy missile boat, “along with two special forces rafts,” entered Greek territorial waters near the Imia/Kardak islets.
Greek Coast Guard vessels and a navy gunboat shadowed the Turkish group, notifying them of the violation, and the Turks left the area after about seven minutes, the Greek statement said.
Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Ioannis Amanatidis said the visit to the Aegean islets was a show for Turkey’s domestic audience.
“The Turkish army got hurt badly during and after the coup attempt. The [Imia/Kardak] issue is serious but it is a communication show made for domestic consumption,” said Amanatidis.
The Jan. 29 incident comes amid fresh tension between the two countries, after the Greek Supreme Court on Jan. 26 blocked the extradition of eight former army officers who had fled to Greece after the July 15, 2016, coup attempt.
Turkey decried the ruling as “political” and threatened to scrap a “readmission agreement” under which Turkey has been taking in migrants landing illegally in Greece.