Tension went high between Greece and Turkey on Sunday, after Ankara sent the Chief of General Staff and the top chiefs of the three Armed Forces to pay a visit to the highly disputed islet of Imia, a small uninhabited island in the Aegean Sea. The provocation took place two days after a Greek Supreme Court rejected Turkey’s request to extradite eight fugitive officers alleged involved in the failed coup of July 2016. Of high symbolism is also the fact that the Turkish provocation occurs two days before the 21st anniversary of the Imia Crisis in 1996 that brought the two neighboring countries on the verge of an armed conflict.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar on Jan. 29 paid a visit to the disputed Aegean islets of Kardak, the Turkish Armed Forces has announced.
Accompanied by the commanders of the land, naval and air forces, Akar sailed to the islets of the Kardak region with two assault boats after conducting inspections on ships belonging to the Aksaz Naval Base Command, the military said in a statement.
The military quoted Akar as saying that Turkey had always regarded friendship and peace in all of its activities in the Aegean in terms of the mission to prevent its interests in sea.
It also stated that the Turkish Armed Forces was continuing to increase its efforts to prevent “attempts against the nation’s rights and interests.”
During his visit, Akar also noted that the Turkish military was an effective, dissuasive and prestigious power in the region, according to the statement.
Quoting the statement of the Turkish General staff, all Turkish media claim with flashing headlines that “Turkey’s top soldier visits Aegean islets of Kardak.” Kardak is the name Turkey gives to the islets of Imia in an another effort to claim sovereignty over several islets and islands in the Aegean Sea.
Some Turkish media even report that the Turkish Generals were not met with “resistance” from the Greek side.
The media reports are accompanied from pictures released by the Turkish General Staff showing the Top soldier and his entourage proudly posing on board of a vessel of the Turkish Navy with Imia in the far …background.
Because no Turkish Top or less Top soldier, commander or commando would dare to set foot on either of the two islets Ankara has put on the dispute agenda since 1996.
The Turkish soldiers performed their provocative visit on Sunday morning, two days before the 21st anniversary of the Imia conflict and two days after the Greek Supreme Court ruled against the extradition of 8 Turkish Officers who sought asylum in the neighboring country in an effort to escape Erdogan’s mass persecutions after the failed coup in July 2016.
Gunboat HS Krataios of the Greek Navy rushed to Imia and called on the Turkish vessel to leave the area.
The incident ended within minutes, the Turkish vessel with the Top entourage on broad left the area.
The Greek Navy remains in the area.
Alternative Facts Made In Turkey
But the purpose of the provocative ‘visit’ was fulfilled: Several shots of pictures and false claims enough to have Athens on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
According to Turkish media, General Akar even flew with a helicopter over the disputed islets.
The visit is claimed to have lasted half an hour.
No, the video below does not show General Akar and the other generals setting foot on the islet of Imia. They just get off board on the Turkish port of Bodrum.
The video has been shot by state-run Anadolu News Agency
Several pictures of the almost visit were later uploaded on the official website of the Turkish Armed Forces.
Hours later, the Turkish Minister of Defense said it was a “routine visit.”
Sole purpose: to provoke
The visit of the Turkish top brass was well thought and executed with the sole purpose to provoke Greece. Soime video shot by other Turkish news agencies is entitled Second Crisis in Kardak (IMIA)
The islets, Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish, are 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 in an escalation that saw both sides embarking on a military landing on an islet each.
Imia in Greek or Kardak in Turkish is a pair of two small uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea, situated between the Greek island chain of the Dodecanese and the southwestern mainland coast of Turkey.
They lie 5.5 nautical miles east of the Greek island Kalymnos, 2.5 nmi southeast of the nearest small Greek islet, Kalolimnos, and 3.8 nmi west of the coast of the Turkish peninsula of Bodrum.
Imia/Kardak was the object of a military crisis and subsequent dispute over sovereignty between Greece and Turkey in 1996. The Imia-Kardak dispute is part of the larger Aegean dispute, which also comprises disputes over the continental shelf, the territorial waters, the air space, the Flight Information Regions (FIR) and the demilitarization of the Aegean islands.
In the aftermath of the Imia/Kardak crisis, the dispute was also widened, as Turkey began to lay parallel claims to a larger number of other islets in the Aegean. Recently Turkey claimed that 16 to 18 Greek islands were Turkish.
Beginning of December Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed that Imia was Turkish Territory.
Some Turkish MP even claimed that he would take down the Greek flag from the islands in the Aegean.
These islands, some of them inhabited, are regarded as indisputably Greek by Greece but as grey zones of undetermined sovereignty by Turkey.
In a rare intervention, the European Commission backed the Greek side on the Imia dispute, and warned EU-candidate country Turkey to refrain from any kind of threat or action directed against the sovereignty of EU member state Greece.
But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the whole political and military establishment of Ankara is furious at Greece and the Supreme Court decision. Furthermore Erdogan is under immense pressure by the Kemalist opposition which accuses him of having handed over the 16 islands to Greece – although the Kemalists seem to insist of something that has never taken place as these Greek islands were handed over to Greece by the Italian occupator in 1948.
BTW: Some mean Greeks wonder what the NATO Naval Force was doing when the Turkish military vessel entered Greek Territorial waters without permission.
The answer is simple: both Greece and Turkey are partners in NATO and moreover the duty of NATO force in the Aegean is to chase refugees and migrants from illegally entering Greece, not Turks.