A video showing two Turkish Coast Guard vessels harassing a Greek fishing boat near the Greek islet of Imia was released by the Greek television station Open on Wednesday evening, showing only one of the hundreds of similar incidents that have taken place in 2019, according to official data released by Greece’s National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) recently.
The video, which was shot by a member of the Greek fishing boat’s crew earlier in the week, shows the Turkish vessels passing very close to the boat from Kalymnos at high speed and performing dangerous maneuvers.
Despite the Turkish Coast Guard’s efforts to scare the fishermen off and destroy their nets, the Greek vessel continued fishing.
Nikos Lagadianos, the press spokesman for the Greek Coast Guard, speaking to Greek Reporter on Friday says that he has no concrete information yet on the incident apart from what is shown in the video.
Lagadianos added that he also has no information on when exactly this incident occurred and whether it happened within Greek waters, as the fishermen allege. “Such incidents are very common during this period of the year as it’s the fishing season for sea bream,” the spokesman added.
Local fishermen confirm that such incidents are indeed quite common near the Imia islands, whose sovereignty is disputed by Turkey.
Dimitris Diakomichalis, the mayor of Kalymnos, says that such incidents are in fact almost a daily occurrence in the area’s waters.
“The Turkish Coast Guard enters Greek territorial waters and harasses fishermen near the Imia islets at will. This needs to be stopped,” the mayor declares.
He explains that the Greek Coast Guard has only one operational vessel based on Kalymnos which is “giving an unequal battle to prevent two or three Turkish vessels entering Greek waters… Sometimes real naval battles are taking place.”
“As seen in the video, such incidents can become very dangerous,” said Diakomichalis, who commended the fishermen for keeping their cool under very stressful circumstances.
He also highlighted the fact that the fishing industry on Kalymnos and other nearby islands is dying off due to the continued Turkish provocations. “Many fishermen abandon their professions due to the continuous Turkish harassment,” he says.
According to official data published by GEETHA, 2,032 separate incidents involving violations of Greece’s territorial waters have been recorded so far in 2019.
This number is significantly higher compared to just last year, when Greece’s territorial waters were violated by Turkey a total of 1,479 times.
Imia (or “Kardak” in Turkish) is a pair of small uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea, situated between Greece’s Dodecanese archipelago and the southwestern mainland coast of Turkey.
The islets were the object of a military crisis and subsequent dispute over sovereignty between Greece and Turkey back in 1996.