ATHENS – The United States’ Ambassador to Greece said he’s worried about an “accident” happening between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean after Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos threw a wreath in the sea off an uninhabited rocky islet both countries claim.
The Hellenic Navy General Staff rejected reports that Turkey’s Coast Guard prevented Kammenos throwing the wreath into the sea off the Imia islets in the eastern Aegean where a Greek military helicopter crashed in 1996, killing three servicemen, nearly bringing the countries to war.
In an interview with SKAI TV, Pyatt noted that the Coast Guard maneuvers in the sea that has seen Greek and Turkish vessels close on each other and bump in one instance but without fire being drawn. That happened off Imia as well.
In a written statement, the Greek Navy said the claim by the Turkish Interior Ministry, cited by the state-run Anadolu agency, that Kammenos couldn’t get to the spot was wrong and that the Greek gunboat Nikiforos made it, despite an attempt by Turkey’s Coast Guard sto stop it.
Kammenos tweeted that the Turkish report was a “lie” and that the Greek Navy has “humiliated the Turks over their claims about Imia,” where he had gone in previous years to toss a wreath from a helicopter.
Turkey disputes Greece’s sovereignty over Imia, which it calls Kardak, and other Greek islands, a source of constant provocation between the countries that has seen Kammenos speaking out while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had remained mostly silent with critics saying he was fearful that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would flood Greek islands with more refugees and migrants.
After Erdogan’s visit to Athens in December, 2017 did nothing to stop Turkish fighter jets from continuing to violate Greek airspace nor Turkish vessels from going into Greek waters, Tsipras said he had to struggle with an “aggressive” Turkey without naming Erdogan.
Kammenos, leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are the junior partner in the coalition led by Tsipras’ ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, has barked out at Turkey a number of times.