Turkey’s military cadets swam the distance to the Greek island of Kastellorizo last week to demonstrate how close the Greek island is to Turkey.
The provocative move follows recent statements by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who referred to Kastellorizo as being within swimming distance of Turkey.
Akar said that “we’re talking about a 10 square kilometer island. And they (the Greeks) are claiming a maritime area of 40,000 square meters for this island. And when we say ‘no’ to this, they accuse us of being ‘expansionist’.”
“We expect them to understand that such actions and such rhetoric will get them nowhere,” he added. Kastellorizo, he also said, is “located at a distance of 1,950 meters (6,938 feet). A cadet at the military academy can swim to it.”
Prompted by Akar’s challenge, the cadets swam the equivalent distance from their military academy to a remote Turkish island — not Kastelllorizo itself — and uploaded the video in the official Ministry of Defense social media.
Millî Savunma Üniversitesi Deniz Harp Okulunda (DHO) eğitimlerine devam eden Harbiyeliler; “Planlı Açık Deniz Yüzme Eğitimleri” kapsamında, DHO İç Liman'dan 1.950 metre mesafedeki Tuzla Adası'na yüzerek gitti.@msuedutr pic.twitter.com/YMyXJTRbi9
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) January 1, 2022
Akar also accused Athens of grandstanding over its recent military agreements with France and the United States. “This is not an arms race but a showing off of weapons. They are striving for superiority against Turkey by arming themselves, with the encouragement of some countries,” Akar told high-ranking military officers in a meeting in Ankara.
“This is a futile effort… The Turkish armed forces have the ability, the strength and the willpower to defend our country’s rights and interests,” he added.
Kastellorizo is not far away from Greece. It is Greece
The Turkish logic – or lack thereof – is that whatever piece of land is close to another country, should belong to that country. For instance, since southern Bulgaria is so close to Greece, then it should be part of Greece, and so on, if one follows the logic of our neighbors.
The proximity with Turkey from the Anatolian coastal town of Kas is what makes Greece’s eastern neighbor believe it belongs to them.
The island’s official name, Megisti (Μεγίστη), which means “biggest” or “greatest”, is a misnomer as Kastellorizo is only six kilometers (3.7 miles) long and three kilometers (1.9 miles) wide, with a surface of 9.2 square kilometers (3.6 square miles). It has a triangular shape and is oriented from NE to SW.
Kastellorizo has a long, rich history, going back to Neolithic times. Its first inhabitants were the Pelasgians, as various finds and the destroyed fortifications show. Then came the Dorians. Originally it was named Megiste by the colonist Megisteus.
It was later renamed Castellorizo from the Italian name “Castello Rosso” which means red castle, taking that moniker from the color of the rocks on which its castle was built.