Ankara playing down Rho incident

Ankara attempted yesterday to play down an incident involving the Greek coast guard and Turkish journalists off the eastern Aegean island of Rho, which had prompted concern in Athens that Turkey was attempting to ratchet up tension between the two countries. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin said there was no question of the journalists, who were intercepted while filming an army guard post on the rocky outcrop near the larger island of Kastellorizo, being detained by the coast guard. «Greek coast guard authorities stopped some Turkish journalists who wanted to take photographs near the island and asked them their intentions,» said the Foreign Ministry spokesman. «The Turkish journalists returned to the town of Kas [on the Turkish coast] after talks between the Turkish and Greek coast guard vessels in the region,» he added. Greek coast guard officers said of Tuesday’s incident that they had boarded the yacht carrying the reporters and informed them that they were in Greek territorial waters. They were asked to leave but no equipment or footage was seized. Athens had feared that coming after incursions into its air space by Turkish jets, this was an attempt by Ankara to question Greek sovereignty in the Aegean. However, Ozugergin attempted to ease such concerns. «Turkey’s relations with Greece are not like they were in the past with respect to the Aegean,» said Ozugergin, noting that it has been more than a decade since a standoff between the two countries over the Imia islets. «It seems that some kind of mechanism has been formed in that period of time so that we can act rapidly, not causing any damage to our bilateral relations,» he said, adding, «This does not mean that one party accepts the legal arguments of the other.»