Deadly collision in Aegean

A Turkish-operated cargo ship collided with a Greek tanker and sank off the island of Hydra yesterday, leading to the death of a Turkish sailor and the disappearance of another five Turkish seamen just 10 days after a crash between Greek and Turkish jets over the Aegean caused the death of a Greek pilot. The entire crew of the Greek tanker was rescued. Yesterday’s collision came as Greece’s cross-party National Council on Foreign Policy convened to discuss a possible shift in Athens’s stance opposite Ankara following an increase in Turkish intransigence. It was unclear what caused yesterday’s collision, which occurred just before 2 p.m. when weather conditions were mild. The captain of the Alios Artemis fuel tanker, Menelaos Goyianos, blamed it on an error in judgment by the captain of the Panama-flagged Han. According to Goyianos, the Turkish ship – which had been carrying iron to Casablanca – had violated international navigational safety laws by failing to give way. It was unclear whether the impact had caused a fuel leak. Coast guard authorities said an investigation would be launched. Greek coast guard vessels and Super Puma rescue helicopters yesterday combed the area in search of the five missing seamen. Another seven Turkish sailors were in hospital following their rescue. Meanwhile in Athens, politicians on a cross-party parliamentary committee discussed a possible shift in policy opposite Ankara. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed the «exceptional importance of seeking the greatest possible consensus to strengthen our chief national goal.» She said her planned visit to Ankara on June 9 was to go ahead. PASOK’s foreign affairs spokesman Christos Papoutsis called for «a change in policy and new national strategy to defend our rights.» PASOK’s leader George Papandreou called upon Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to meet with political leaders to discuss a policy shift – an initiative that was welcomed by the government. «New Democracy has always sought consensus on major issues,» spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said. Turkey’s progress in meeting EU commitments – including the opening of its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and aircraft as part of an EU customs protocol – is to be evaluated at an EU summit scheduled for June 15-16.

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