Turkish ship in Aegean fuels concern about region

Defense Minister Nikos Dendias on Tuesday appeared to play down the presence of a Turkish Navy corvette in Greek waters, referring to “predictable” tactics by Ankara, but the latest in a series of transgressions fueled concern in the ranks of the government, with Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos condemning the “blatant violation of international law” by Turkey off the coast of Cyprus.

The Turkish corvette, TCG Buyukada, entered Greek waters between Evia and Andros at around 3 a.m. on Tuesday, continued southward between Kea and Kythnos, and passed Serifos and Milos before being spotted close to Santorini last night.

Addressing a press conference early on Tuesday, Dendias noted that the development, though not welcome, was not a shock as Turkish authorities are accustomed to taking such actions when a new defense minister is appointed in Greece. He said a Greek frigate was monitoring the Turkish vessel. “No one is entitled to sail around the Aegean without us knowing where exactly they are and what exactly they are doing,” he said.

Later in the day, Venizelos slammed Turkey for maintaining a seismic survey vessel off the southern coast of Cyprus, in the latter’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Referring to Turkey’s “recent provocations in Cyprus’s EEZ,” Venizelos accused Ankara of “creating a crisis in an already unstable region.” He was speaking in the Greek Parliament, which was hosting a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Group for the Mediterranean and the Middle East and the Sub-Committee on Partnerships. During the session, a member of Turkey’s ruling AK party, Osman Askin Bak, defended Turkey’s right to conduct searches in Cyprus’s EEZ, but also claimed that there was “no border issue between Turkey and Greece” and that “the whole of the continental shelf is accessible.”

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