Greece Fires Back at Turkish Advisor’s Threats Over Imia Islet

FILE - Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos flying over Imia. Photo: Eurokinissi, File.

ATHENS – Greece’s Foreign Ministry has denounced threats by a Turkish Presidential advisor to break the arms and legs of any Greek official, including Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, if they take a step on the disputed rocky islet of Imia.

Greece’s ministry said the warning from Yigit Bulut, a right-hand man to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who doesn’t recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set borders between the countries – and who wants return of some islands from Greece – was “unspeakable” and “aliene to European political culture,” to which Turkey doesn’t belong.

In an interview aired on Turkish TV channel TRT, Bulut pointed to Imia, where a fierce dispute in 1996 almost brought the two countries to war and led to the death of three Greek servicemen and said any Greek who steps foot on it  will “feel the anger of Turkey, worse than that in Afrin,” referring to a the Kurdish-controlled enclave in Syria where Turkey has launched an air and ground offensive.

“We will break the arms and legs of any officers, of the Prime Minister or of any minister who dares to step onto Imia in the Aegean,” he said. Erdogan did not repudiate him nor make any comment about the provocation.

He has been sending fighter jets into Greek airspace and warships past Greek islands, two months after visiting Athens to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a bid to cool tensions that instead have risen with Tsipras reportedly afraid Turkey let human traffickers send more refugees and migrants to Greek islands if Erdogan is tested.

In response to a journalist’s question, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas said given his important position that Bulut should understand how provocative his warning was and that legal status of the Aegean is clear and enshrined in international laws which Turkey doesn’t recognize either..

“We understand that it is difficult for the gentlemen in question to be studious,” he said in a mocking retort questioning Bulut’s stability.

Greece and Turkey came close to war over the islets in 1996 and Bulut’s comments came a few days after Defense Minister Panos Kammenos went to Imia to throw a wreath, while being monitored by Turkish patrol boats, into the sea to remember the Greek servicemen who died when their helicopter went down under questionable circumstances.

Kammenos, leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the coalition headed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA, has been the one to mostly go after Turkey.

He was taken there on a Greek gunboat with media and official reports saying the Turkish Coast Guard surveilled and tried to keep him from reaching it.

The Turks sent patrol boats and a helicopter to monitor the ceremony, a sore spot for Ankara as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he doesn’t recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set borders between the countries and that he covets return of some islands to Turkey.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry claimed in an announcement that its “Coast Guard prevented the Greek defense minister from approaching a pair of Turkish islets in the Aegean,” according to Anadolu news agency.

Earlier, Tsipras’ lament that Turkey is being too “aggressive” and pushing invasions of Greek airspace and waters drew fire from that country’s Foreign Ministry which blamed Greece for being provocative.

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