ATHENS – With between the countries to negotiate seas boundaries unset for now, Greece said the national flag on the island of Kastellorizo, at the center of the storm, was defaced by Turkish nationalists.
The Turkish network Karar TV showed video footage from a drone of the defaced painting, while Greek media reported the network attributed the vandalism to “Turkish engineers” who had thrown “100 kilos of red paint on the Greek flag,” said Al Jazeera in a report.
Turkey had recently pulled back the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and warships from near Kastellorizo and Greece's Continental Shelf, offering talks that will be held in Ankara, not Athens.
The attack happened just before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said that Washington backs Greece over what the State Department called “disputed waters” landed in Greece for talks.
The tiny Greek island is just two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the coast of Turkey and is one of those that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said should be returned after being ceded away in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne he rejects.
Authorities on the island found red paint smeared over a large mural of the Greek flag, painted on a hill near its port, without explaining how it happened, whether it was splashed there or dropped by a drone.
“We unequivocally condemn yesterday’s desecration of the Greek flag in Kastellorizo. Unacceptable actions such as these are aimed at undermining the prospects for de-escalation of the tensions between the two countries,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“We expect the immediate condemnation and the prompt investigation of the incident by the Turkish authorities, so that the perpetrators be brought to justice,” it added.
There were also reports of a drone flying over the island playing Turkish anthems.
Erdogan said Turkey has the right to hunt for energy off Greek islands, including Crete where the US Navy has a base on Souda Bay, under a maritime deal signed with Libya that no other country recognizes.
Greece countered with a similar agreement with Egypt, which led Erdogan to cancel earlier scheduled talks and as Greece and Turkey have conducted naval exercises in the East Mediterranean and Aegean.
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