Tensions spike in Aegean Sea
Athens to issue demarche after Turkish boat fires live ammunition during exercises off Greek island
Tension between Greece and Turkey escalated further yesterday after a Turkish coastal patrol boat fired live ammunition during a military exercise in Greek territorial waters in the eastern Aegean Sea.
Speaking to Kathimerini newspaper on condition of anonymity, a Greek diplomatic source described the incident in the area around the eastern Aegean island of Farmakonisi, as “a grave violation of international law.”
“Turkey’s unacceptable act raises serious concerns about the potential consequences of its behavior on the stability of the wider region,” the same source said.
Greek defense officials were reportedly preparing to lodge a demarche with Ankara and brief allies and international organizations on the incident.
According to the Defense Ministry, Turkish authorities issued a navigational telex, or Navtex, the day before informing of a military exercise with live ammunition within Greek territorial waters, east of Farmakonisi, on Friday [yesterday] morning between 7 and 9 a.m.
The Greek Defense Ministry re- sponded by issuing a Navtex turning down the Turkish notification, saying it covered Greek territorial waters.
Turkish authorities have previously issued similar notifications without executing them.
The Greek gunboat Nikiforos was sent to the area to monitor the Turkish Kusadasi vessel, which fired a volley of shots from small caliber (up to 40mm) guns between 7.40 and 7.55 a.m., until it left the area just before 8 a.m.
Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos reportedly monitored developments from Munich where he is attending an annual international Security Conference. Kammenos reportedly briefed Greece’s allies and partners over the incident. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also attended the annual gathering – an informal platform for allies and adversaries to meet in close quarters.
Yesterday’s incident occurred in the wake of repeated Turkish violations of Greek air space and increased tensions between Athens and Ankara, which were further fueled last month when Greece’s highest court blocked the extradition of eight Turkish officers to Turkey for their alleged involvement in July’s failed coup.
Reacting to the development yesterday, Greece’s conservative opposition requested a meeting of the country’s National Council of Foreign Policy.
“We are deeply concerned to witness Turkey’s insistence on provoking [Athens] and maintaining a climate of tension in the Aegean,” New Democracy shadow foreign minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said in a letter to Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.