On alert over Aegean ten­sions

Greek mil­i­tary on standby as gov’t main­tains low-key rhetoric in face of in­creas­ing Turk­ish provo­ca­tions

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Ties be­tween Ankara and Athens re­mained strained over the week­end, with Greece’s armed forces un­der in­struc­tions to re­main alert but calm, fol­low­ing an es­ca­lat­ing war of words over sovereignty in the Aegean and an un­prece­dented spike in Turk­ish provo­ca­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, the Greek mil­i­tary is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about a pos­si­ble sur­prise move by the Turk­ish Navy in the Aegean – ei­ther an­other at­tempt by a Turk­ish ves­sel to ap­proach the Imia islets or a claim by Ankara to search and res­cue rights in the area – that would ratchet up ten­sions fur­ther.

A week of chal­lenges by Ankara, prompted by a Greek court de­ci­sion on Jan­uary 26 to re­ject a re­quest for the ex­tra­di­tion of eight Turk­ish mil­i­tary of­fi­cers linked to last year’s failed coup, cul­mi­nated in a terse ver­bal ex­change.

Late on Fri­day, the Turk­ish For­eign Min­istry con­demned the “tone” and “ab­surd re­marks” of Greek De­fense Min­is­ter Panos Kam­menos, say­ing that they were “de­plorable.”

“We con­demn his base­less, in­ap­pro­pri­ate as well as un­eth­i­cal ex­pres­sions against our coun­try and our Pres­i­dent and re­turn them to the owner,” the Turk­ish min­istry said in a writ­ten state­ment is­sued late on Fri­day. The state­ment called on Greek au­thor­i­ties to “act with re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

The state­ment fol­lowed Kam­menos’s com­ments dur­ing an in­ter­view with ANT1 TV dur­ing which he ac­cused Ankara of “cow­boy tac­tics” in the Aegean and de­fended his right to fly over the Imia islets, the sovereignty of which Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties con­test. That over­flight prompted a bar­rage of vi­o­la­tions of Greek air space by Turk­ish jets – a record of 138.

Over­all, Athens has opted for a low-key re­sponse to a se­ries of state­ments by Turk­ish gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials broach­ing ter­ri­to­rial claims in the Aegean. Speak­ing from an EU lead­ers’ sum­mit in Malta at the end of last week, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras stressed that there are “no gray zones in the Aegean,” an ap­par­ent re­sponse to claims by his Turk­ish coun­ter­part Bi­nali Yildirim, ac­cord­ing to which 130 rocky islets in the Aegean have “no iden­tity.”

Diplo­mats fear that a power vac­uum in Wash­ing­ton could mean that there will be a de­lay in any re­ac­tion if ten­sions es­ca­late fur­ther. New US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has yet to fill key va­can­cies in the State Depart­ment and De­fense Sec­re­tary’s of­fice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.