NEWS

Ex-PM Simitis: A new 'Imia crisis' with Turkey not out of the question

TAGS: Diplomacy, Turkey

The danger of a “hot incident” with Turkey is ever-present, former Prime Minister Costas Simitis warns in an article in Greek Kathimerini.

Referring to the “Imia crisis” which brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war a few days after he became Prime Minister in January 1996, Simitis says  that “it is not excluded that the present Turkish leadership has similar designs.”

The status of Imia, two uninhabited islets in Greek seas close to the Turkish coast, has been disputed by Turkey.

The former Prime Minister believes that the new government that will be formed after the July election should tackle relations with Turkey and warns that “the issues are known, but the prevailing conditions are different from those that prevailed for decades.”

For Simitis, the most significant new factor is the discovery of natural gas reserves in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEz) and the speculation that similar oil and gas reserves exist in parts of Cyprus’ and Greece’s shelf.

Simitis also believes that the Imia crisis “did not occur by chance… since the then Turkish leadership wanted to take advantage of the crisis brought by [his predecessor as Prime Minister] Andreas Papandreou's illness, his resignation and the election of a new leadership, which they believed they could take by surprise.”

“It is not excluded that similar designs are harbored by the present Turkish leadership,” the ex-premier says, adding that “the intense political confrontation in Greece ahead of the elections creates favorable conditions for such action.”

“Turkey could decide that this period provides an opening to impose its views on the delineation of both Greece's territorial waters and continental shelf,” Simitis notes.

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