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Greek Coast Guard Boat Harassed by Turkish Vessel

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Hellenic Coast Guard vessel. Credit: Hellenic Coast Guard

A Greek Coast Guard patrol boat was harassed by a Turkish counterpart on Sunday, suffering minor damages but no crew member injuries.

According to the Mytilene Port Authority, the Greek boat was patrolling the sea area east of Lesvos island when the Turkish boat approached very closely, resulting in minor material damage to the Greek boat.

According to a statement by the Hellenic Coast Guard headquarters, no crew member injuries were reported.

Such incidents are common in the East Aegean, as Greek Coast Guard boats patrol the waters to curb boats coming from Turkey carrying undocumented migrants to Greece.

Greece-Turkey to hold talks on Monday

The incident between the two boats took place just one day before the meeting of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the sidelines of a NATO summit Brussels.

The harassing of the Greek Coast Guard boat is the latest in a long line of Turkish provocations in the East Aegean.

Mitsotakis said on Friday that good bilateral relations will depend on de-escalation efforts and asked of Turkey to respect international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Turkey has been instrumental in the continuous flow of migrants to Greece. In most cases, Turkish Coast Guard vessels escort and aid boatfuls of migrants to reach the Greek islands near the Turkish shores.

Athens has asked of Ankara to take back asylum seekers that come from Turkey and are not eligible for refugee protection.

Erdogan has called the Aegean “Sea of Islands”

Among the Turkish provocative rhetoric at sea, is a recent remark by the Turkish president, when he neglected to call the Aegean Sea by its name and called it “Sea of Islands”.

Speaking to a congress of his AKP party in Istanbul, Erdogan said that there should be no “concerns about Turkey’s presence from the eastern Mediterranean to the Black Sea, as well as in the Aegean, which old-timers called the Sea of Islands.”

He was referring to remarks by retired admiral, Cihat Yayci, one of the main architects of the “Blue Homeland” theory which envisions Turkish influence over vast swaths of the eastern Mediterranean.

Yaci has asked for the name of the Aegean to be changed, as it is Greek (the Turks call it “Ege”), and referred to it as the “Sea ​​of Islands.”

Hostile Turkish rhetoric

Ankara’s continuously aggressive rhetoric keeps adding fuel to the fire of the Greek-Turkish relations.

In a previous escalation of such rhetoric by Ankara, in August 20120, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay spoke about “tearing pup the map of the Aegean” and drawing a new one.

Fuat Oktay said that his compatriots cry their hearts out every morning when they wake up to the sight of Greek islands, such as Oinouses, Kastellorizo and Chios.

Holding a map of the Greek islands in the eastern Aegean, Oktay told viewers: “Think about Sakiz [Chios]. Just one kilometer away from the Turkish coast. Where is Athens? [too far from the island]”

“Look where is Meis [Kastellorizo],” he continued. It’s just two kilometers from the [Turkish city of] Kas. Don’t my citizens in Kas see this? Every morning when they wake up they cry their hearts out.”

The Turkish Vice-President warned that Turkey will not allow this to continue: “We will tear up this map and we will tear up those who think of this map. We will crush them when necessary,” he added.

He also threatened Greece with war if it expands it’s territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Aegean. “If Athens’ attempts to expand its territorial waters isn’t a cause of war, then what is?”

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the Turkish official’s delirium:

“Turkey’s unprecedented belief that it can threaten neighboring countries with the use of force when they exercise their legal rights is contrary to contemporary political culture and also the fundamental provisions of international law.”

 

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