Dangerous precedents

With the benefit of past experience which tells them that Athens will not react, Ankara is sending fighter jets over Agathonisi, Farmakonisi and Fournoi in a bid to set precedents that essentially challenge Greek sovereignty over these populated islands. Turkish provocations are not circumstantial but rather reflect long-term strategic plans. On 29 January, 1996, Turkey included the above three islands (as well as Pserimos) in the same category as the Imia islets. A few days later, then Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said that she would raise the issue of some 1,000 islets. «So far, Turkey subconsciously accepted that these islands practically belong to Greece. We are going to change that,» she told Hurriyet at the time. Turkey does not argue that violations were committed because of the confined international air space. Rather, they claim that the aforesaid islands are Turkish territory taken over by Greece. So, Turkish warships anchor near these islands. When Greece asks them to leave, the Turks respond that the Greek vessels or helicopters must leave because they are supposedly violating Turkish sovereignty. Although in theory Turkey questions Greek sovereignty over all islets that are not named in past treaties, it has so far avoided challenging sovereignty en masse. In 1996, Ankara staged a crisis that successfully set a precedent, as the Imia islets are now considered a gray area. It is currently trying to do the same with other islets, the ultimate goal being to turn the Aegean Sea into a gray area. All these years, Turkey has tried to create the impression internationally that the Aegean is a problem region. Proof of Ankara’s success is that a few months ago the government and the military tried to sabotage President Karolos Papoulias’s visit to Agathonisi. They went as far as to suggest that they could not guarantee his safety. It was yet another example of Greece compromising its sovereign rights, a result of its phobia.