Greece, Turkey Start New War of Words Over Imia Islet

The National Herald Archive

(Photo: Turkish Armed Forces General Staff)

ATHENS - With tensions flaring in the Aegean, Greece has declared outright ownership again of the rocky, disputed islets of Imia that Turkey also claims and where they almost went to war in a standoff in 1996, in which three Greek servicemen died in a still-mysterious helicopter crash.

"The legal status of Imia is firmly established," the Greek Foreign Ministry said, adding that "Greek sovereignty over Imia is a given and beyond doubt."

"Turkey is mistaken if it thinks it can violate international law in the Aegean without consequences, as it does in other places in its environs," the statement added. "We would advise Turkey to measure its words."

That was in response to the Turkish Foreign Ministry blasting Greece for adopting an environmental law regarding European Union Natura programs that it claimed Greece "has long been exploiting... with respect to the Aegean issues."

"There is no doubt about the sovereignty of Turkey over the Kardak rocks," the statement said, using the Turkish name for the Imia islets. "Moreover, we will not accept any possible fait accompli to be presented by Greece towards the geographical formations in the Aegean Sea, legal status of which are disputed."

"Lastly, we would like to reiterate that the Greek Law no. 4519 will not bear any legal effect regarding the disputes existing between Turkey and Greece in the Aegean Sea," the statement from Turkey added.

In February fears of an accidental conflict rose when Turkish ships twice bumped into Greek vessels off Imia, where Defense Minister Panos Kammenos went for a ceremony marking the 1996 incident.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim took a shot at Greece too, as well as as Cyprus, declaring that Turkey will not accept challenges to its sovereignty.

"Turkey will never tolerate certain circles which violate our sovereignty in the Mediterranean and Aegean," he said.

"Those who play at being pirates in the Aegean should not forget September 9, 1922," he said, referring to the Turkish military's reoccupation of Izmir, driving Greece out of Asian Minor, in a retort to Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos reminding Turkey it lost in 1821 with the beginning of the end of the Ottoman Occupation.

Yildirim said his comments were "chiefly directed at those who are trying to confound Turkey's struggle against terrorism beyond its borders,” said Kathimerini.

"Do not chase empty dreams of the Aegean and Cyprus," he said, adding that "history books write about the fate of those who previously had empty dreams about the Aegean and Cyprus." Turkey has unlawfully occupied the northern third of Cyprus since a 1974 invasion.

Turkey is not a country "that will give in and say "thank you," stoking the dreams of those with ambitious foreign policies," he added.