Just weeks after the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu made a mention of “occupied” islets in the Aegean in an infamous parliamentary speech, a story in the Turkish media suggests that Greece and Turkey might be bracing up for a repeat of a tragic incident.
According to a report in the Hurriyet newspaper, on Tuesday 3 January the Turkish Coast Guard prevented one Greek battleship and two Greek coastguard boats from approaching the “disputed islets of Kardak” (as the Imia are called by the Turks).
“The two countries’ boats were 30 metres apart and ran parallel to each other off the coast of Bodrum’s Turgutreis neighbourhood along the southern Aegean Coast, according to witnesses”, the story revealed, which claimed that the standoff lasted for five hours.
The Hellenic Ministry of National Defence confirmed only part of the story. In a statement made to the Greek newspaper Proto Thema, a spokesperson for the Hellenic Navy confirmed that a Navy ship, the Nikiphoros gunboat, patrolled near Imia, but denied that any standoff took place.
“Nothing happened,” said the officer.
“Nor was there a verbal episode, nor anything else mentioned in the Turkish publication.”
The islets, ‘Imia’ in Greek and ‘Kardak’ in Turkish, are a pair of two small uninhabited rocks in the Aegean Sea, situated between the Greek island chain of the Dodecanese and the southwestern mainland coast of Turkey.
Greece and Turkey nearly went to war over the islets in 1996 during a heated incident that resulted to the deaths of two Greek soldiers.