Ten­sion de-es­ca­lates

Greece, Turkey with­draw ships from Imia but Cyprus stale­mate re­mains

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The ten­sion be­tween Greece and Turkey af­ter the in­ci­dent near the Imia islets in the east­ern Aegean on Mon­day night showed signs of deesca­la­tion yes­ter­day as both Greek and Turk­ish ves­sels with­drew from the vicin­ity.

The de-es­ca­la­tion came as Athens seeks to high­light Ankara’s provoca­tive stance in the Aegean and Cyprus as a threat not just to Greece, but to the bor­ders of the Euro­pean Union and the wider re­gion as well.

To this end sources yes­ter­day said that Athens will seek to ac­ti­vate the EU’s mu­tual de­fense clause that calls for sol­i­dar­ity in deal­ing with ex­ter­nal threats. Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker said yes­ter­day he was “strictly against the be­hav­ior of Turkey.” The ini­tial stance of the EU has been well re­ceived in Athens, which says the es­ca­la­tion by Turkey is in­ten­tional due to the dif­fi­cult po­si­tion Ankara finds it­self on the do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional fronts. “[Turkey] has opened up many fronts at the same time and this has con­trib­uted to ner­vous­ness and a ten­dency to in­crease its provo­ca­tions,” Gov­ern­ment spokesman Dim­itris Tzanakopou­los said, adding that “any move by Turkey will be an­swered not just by the Greek side but by the EU and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions.” Mean­while, De­fense Min­is­ter Panos Kam­menos told his NATO coun­ter­parts in Brus­sels yes­ter­day that there is no doubt that Turkey is es­ca­lat­ing ten­sion in­ten­tion­ally. State­ments by Turk­ish Pre­mier Bi­nali Yildirim yes­ter­day sug- gested Ankara is en­ter­ing phase of de-es­ca­la­tion, but the gov­ern­ment said it will re­main on full alert. Yildirim said that the Aegean should be a sea of friend­ship and re­frained from re­peat­ing the claim made by the Turk­ish For­eign Min­istry on Tues­day that Imia be­longs to Turkey – even though he blamed Mon­day’s in­ci­dent on Greek vi­o­la­tions. Ten­sions on Cyprus how­ever re­main, as Turk­ish war­ships con­tin­ued their block­ade of Block 3 in the is­land’s ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone. More­over, Yildirim told Pre­mier Alexis Tsipras that Ni­cosia can­not con­tinue with gas ex­plo­ration with­out a so­lu­tion to the Cyprus prob­lem. The Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry ex­pressed hope that all in­ter­ested states will act in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law.

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