Tensions with Turkey over the Aegean soared on Feb. 1 after a chief advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned any Greek who tries to put a foot on the disputed, uninhabited rocky islet of Imia will be beaten or worse.
“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,” Yigit Bulut told Turkish TV, referring to the islet where Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, a Turkish taunter, threw a wreath to mark a 1996 military incident there that brought the countries to brink of war and saw three Greek servicemen killed in a helicopter crash, the details of which have been kept secret.
Bulut said that Athens will “feel the anger of Turkey, worse than that in Afrin,” referring to the Kurdish-controlled enclave in Syria where Turkish troops have engaged.
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.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis 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.
Tsipras used the World Economic Forum state at Davos, Switzerland to take a shot at Turkey for also flooding Greek islands with scores of thousands of refugees and immigrants even during a suspended swap deal with the European Union.
Tsipras called Turkey an “aggressive neighbor, sometimes unpredictable with an aggressive military activity in the Aegean.”