A patrol boat of the Turkish Coast Guard bumped on gunboat “Nikiforos” of the Greek Navy off the islet of Imia in the eastern Aegean Sea on Wednesday. Nikiforos was on routine patrol near the islet, Ankara claims it belongs to Turkey.
The incident occurred in the Greek territorial waters.
Nikiforos was reportedly following TCG Köyceğiz patrol boat of the Turkish Navy when the boat of the Turkish Coast Guard appeared and started maneuvers approximately 1-1.5 nautical miles of Imia.
Speaking to media, high-ranking sources of the Greek General Staff attributed the incident to “rigid maneuvers by the Turkish Coast Guard boat type SG” and “wrong handling” of the Turkish side.
The coast guard boat touched gunboat Nikiforos at the galley area.
No injuries or material damage was reported. The Greek gunboat continued its patrol, while the Turkish boat returned to Turkey’s territorial waters extending just 3 nautical miles off the Turkish coast.
The incident occurred a day before the Chief of Greek General Staff will meet with his Turkish colleague.
In January 1996, Greece and Turkey came on the verge of a military conflict over a series of provocative incidents around and on the islet of Imia.
On 27 January some Turkish journalists from Hurriyet landed on the islet with a helicopter, lowered the Greek flag and hoisted a Turkish flag. The whole event being broadcast live on Turkish television. On 28 January, the Greek Navy lowered the Turkish flag and restored the Greek, resulting in an exchange of fierce statements by the Turkish prime minister Tansu Çiller and the new Greek prime minister Kostas Simitis. Turkish and Greek naval forces were alerted and warships of both countries, both NATO members, sailed to the islets. The armed conflict was averted with the intervention of then US President Bill Clinton.
Turkey’s challenging the Greek sovereign rights in the Aegean have been continuing up to date. Under pressure by his own opposition, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been increasing tension with neighboring Greece. Turkish Kemalist opposition has been accusing Erdogan for having allegedly delivered 16 to 19 Turkish islands to Greece.
With regards to Wednesday’s incident, KTG understands so far that Athens tries to downgrade the incident.
Thumbnail picture: archive picture of Nikiforos by Hellenic Navy