PM due in Turkey late this month

Government aides yesterday discussed the details of a planned visit to Turkey later this month by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis as a fishing dispute in the Aegean threatened to heighten tensions between Athens and Ankara. Sources told Kathimerini that Karamanlis is intent on visiting Turkey as planned, most probably from January 23 to 25, despite the unease provoked by recent Turkish press claims that Greek fishermen are violating territorial waters near the Aegean Imia islets, over which the two countries almost went to war in 1996. Greece’s ambassador in Ankara on Monday lodged an official complaint with the Turkish government over the reports which, some Greek commentators claim, are similar in tone to those which provoked the 1996 crisis. Athens lodged another complaint with Ankara last month over a posting on the Turkish joint chiefs of staff website that claimed that Greece has an illegal military presence on Rhodes. Remarks by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – according to which Greece’s stance opposite the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was «incorrect and unpleasant» – also caused a stir. But the ongoing dispute between Greek and Turkish fishermen is causing the most concern. Fishermen from Kalymnos and other islands near Turkey clash with their Turkish counterparts at this time of year as they are vying for fish in the same waters. Greek fishermen say their nets are often destroyed by rival Turks. But tensions have been sharpened by the recent Turkish press reports. Greeks argue that it is an unfair battle as they are obliged to respect European Union laws, unlike their Turkish neighbors. «Greek fishing vessels face restrictions, even in international waters, but Turkish boats don’t have such problems,» Euro Deputy Yiannis Glavakis told Kathimerini. One of the busiest seasons for fishermen from Kalymnos starts in mid-December and runs until early February but their activities are often sabotaged by Turkish fishermen, according to Giorgos Katsotourkis, the president of the Federation of Fishermen of the Southern Aegean.