Greece said in a letter to the EU that an “accident” involving coast guard vessels from Turkey in the Aegean could result in the escalation of tensions between the two NATO allies.
In the letter addressed to Josep Borrell, chief of the EU’s Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias notes the incident earlier in January when a Hellenic Coast Guard vessel was harassed by a Turkish speedboat off the island of Farmakonisi.
A coast guard statement said that “its vessel was attempting to identify three Turkish fishing vessels in Greek territorial waters southeast of Farmakonisi. A Turkish Coast Guard vessel harassed the Greek Coast Guard vessel, performing dangerous maneuvers with the intent of ramming it.”
The Greek crew fired warning shots in a secure sector, and the Turkish coast guard vessel withdrew toward the Turkish coast. The coast guard said the shots were fired into the air.
Incidents increase the possibility of an “accident” and escalate Greece-Turkey tensions
Dendias says that such incidents create a dangerous security environment and increase the possibility of an “accident,” which could be used as a tool by Ankara in order to escalate tension between Greece and Turkey.
In addition, the letter points out the avoidance of cooperation and often aggressive attitude on the part of Turkish fishermen not only against coast guard vessels but also against Greek fishing vessels.
It is easy to see, notes Dendias, what the consequences of such a development will be for the wider region but also for Euro-Turkish relations.
He emphasizes the need for the EU to take measures and impose economic consequences on Turkey. Dendias refers to the EU Regulation (1005/2008) which established a system to prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
The regulation provides that if a third country does not comply, it is designated as “non-cooperating,” and its fishery products can be banned from the EU market.
The Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs also referred to the aggressive rhetoric of Turkish officials, who, on an almost daily basis, launch unprovoked threats against Greece.
Coupled with the incidents of contesting national sovereignty in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey, through illegal fishing, adds yet another means of implementing its revisionist policy and challenging the status quo in the area, Dendias’ letter to the EU asserts.