Turks in new Imia violation

Greece will inform its EU partners that Turkish coast guard patrol boats entered Greek territorial waters and sailed to the Imia islets in the eastern Dodecanese yesterday, the government said, in what Athens is treating as a more serious than usual violation. «Such behavior is not in line with the stance EU candidate countries should adopt in relation to member states, nor with the European principle of good neighborly relations,» Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said. Greece and Turkey came close to fighting over the Imia islets in January 1996. Military sources said that two vessels approached the uninhabited Aegean rocks at 10 and 11.30 a.m. respectively. The boats are said to have sailed in between the islets and stayed there for some 15 minutes before moving away to a distance of one kilometer. A Greek coast guard vessel arrived there soon afterward and asked the Turkish patrols to withdraw from the spot, which they only did at 13.50 p.m., according to the sources. Koumoutsakos said that Athens would be making representations to the EU over the violation. The last incident of this kind took place on December 5 but Greek military and political sources told Kathimerini they consider yesterday’s events to be a more serious violation and the result of an order from the Turkish government. However, significance is attached to the fact that boats involved belonged to the Turkish coast guard and not the navy. Although Greek navy vessels patrol the area, it is Athens’s policy not to involve them in such incidents, calling on the coast guard to intervene instead, with the aim of preventing the situation from escalating. There is concern on the Greek side, however, that such an escalation could occur in the Aegean, particularly if Turkish coast guard vessels begin conducting checks on Greek fishing boats in the area. Meanwhile, Defense Ministry sources said Turkish fighter jets also violated Greek air space in the Aegean 12 times yesterday. There were similar violations on Monday.

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