Turkish PM disputes Greek sovereignty, as Tsipras cites ‘aggressive neighbor’


Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has again disputed Greece’s sovereignty over parts of the Aegean Sea, while accusing Athens of building up bilateral tension while Ankara is busy fighting what he described as “terrorism” in its wider region.

In comments made to local media on Wednesday, Yildirim accused Athens of pursuing a repeat of the 1996 Imia crisis, when the two countries came to the brink of war over ownership of the uninhabited Aegean islets, adding that such an attempt “will not go down well” in Ankara.

“In case something similar occurs, there are always means at Turkey’s disposal to defend itself. Let there be no qualms about that,” he said.

Turkey disputes Greece’s territorial sovereignty over the rocky formations, known in Turkish as Kardak, on the basis of its “gray zones” theory.

Last week, a Turkish patrol boat conducting a dangerous maneuver bumped into a Hellenic Navy gunboat near Imia. No damage was reported from the contact.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding Turkey’s ongoing air and ground operation in the Afrin region of northern Syria aimed at fighting Syrian Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants, violations of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets continue, if at a lower rate.

A mock dogfight between Greek and Turkish F-16s took place northwest of Lesvos island on Wednesday at 2.35 p.m.

The issue of Turkey’s provocations was raised on Wednesday by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, described Turkey as an “aggressive neighbor, sometimes unpredictable with an aggressive military activity in the Aegean.”

“For somebody, it is very easy to be also aggressive if they are living in Luxembourg or Netherlands, because their neighbors are Belgium and Luxembourg, and not Turkey. But it’s not so easy for us,” he said in English.

He nevertheless defended a controversial deal between the European Union and Ankara to stem migration flows in the Aegean, saying that it was “a difficult but necessary agreement.”