Turks violate Greek waters, EU norms

Turkey has increasingly been using genuine or bogus pretexts in a bid to provoke Athens or even to indirectly question Greece’s sovereign and operational rights as set out by international pacts and treaties. On Saturday, a Turkish coast guard patrol boat entered Greek territorial waters near the Imia islets and stayed there for three hours. Despite repeated calls by a Greek patrol boat that immediately approached the intruding vessel, the Turkish captain refused to withdraw from the spot. The boat departed hours later when Ankara apparently deemed that the episode had done enough to help its strategy of consolidating the existence of so-called gray zones in the Aegean Sea. Yesterday Ankara went as far as to exploit the sinking in the morning hours of a North Korean-flagged cargo ship after it was hit by a storm. The ship sank in international waters northwest of Psara island, within Greek search-and-rescue waters which coincide with the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR). Instead of focusing its efforts on aiding the rescue effort conducted by the Greek authorities, Ankara went on to violate the Athens FIR by sending an army helicopter without previously submitting a flight plan. At the same time, it sent a Turkish military ship to coordinate the search-and-rescue operation in what constituted a clear bid to question the Greek search-and-rescue area. Ankara’s political machination failed, but this is of secondary importance. More alarmingly, Turkey has displayed a clear political will to continue and intensify the projection of its unilateral claims against Greece’s sovereign and operational rights. It appears that Turkey’s supposed harmonization with European norms and principles has had little effect on its attitudes toward Greece. Giving Turkey the green light for membership negotiations with the European Union has only resulted in an escalation of Turkish provocations toward our country. Future prospects appear grim. The government in Athens must notify Brussels of Turkey’s actions in order to avert unfavorable developments in the future. That is, provided that the EU can really take any action that would appease Turkey.