Flag claim sparks fresh tension between Greece, Turkey

Flag claim sparks fresh tension between Greece, Turkey

Hopes that tensions between Athens and Ankara could be defused after the recent phone conversation between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim were dashed Monday after the latter again attempted to raise questions about Greek sovereignty over parts of the Aegean.

Yildirim had claimed early Monday morning that the Turkish Coast Guard took down a Greek flag from an Aegean islet in a “disputed area” that was reportedly raised by three Greeks on a speedboat on Friday.

However, Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that there was no evidence of any “violation of Greek territory” and blasted the statement by Yildirim as “totally provocative and reprehensible,” adding, “Greece will never accept the theory of ‘gray zones’ or any questioning of its territorial sovereignty.”

Ankara’s dispute of Greek sovereignty brought the two countries to the brink of war in 1996 over the islet of Imia.

“I think Mr Yildirim should be more careful,” Tzanakopoulos said. “We call on Turkey to return to a path of respect for international law,” he said, adding that Turkish authorities should “take the initiative to de-escalate the tension.”

Tzanakopoulos said nonetheless that “we continue to investigate the matter in a calm and very serious fashion.”

Meanwhile Yiannis Marousis, the mayor of Fourni, near the Anthropofagos islet where the three Greeks allegedly raised the flag, told Kathimerini Monday that it was still there. A spokesman for the Fourni coast guard also said there had been no sign of any Turkish intervention on the islet.

Marousis also said that he had seen reports on social media a few days ago about the apparent efforts of three people to erect a flag on the islet.

“It was three kids who had come to the island for their Easter holidays,” he said. A government official bemoaned the gesture of the three, saying that “they do not comprehend what they could have provoked.”

Another official said that it wasn’t clear whether the three men raised the flag on the islet, took a photo and took it away with them or left it behind. He also didn’t rule out the possibility that it was blown away by the wind.

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