Calamos Supports Greece
GreekReporter.comGreek NewsLessons From the Imia Crisis That Led Greece and Turkey to the...

Lessons From the Imia Crisis That Led Greece and Turkey to the Brink of War

Imia Crisis
Claims over the Imia islets, small and large Imia, almost caused a war between Greece and Turkey in January in 1996. Public Domain

The crisis over the sovereignty of Imia, a pair of small uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea, in January 1996 led Greece and Turkey to the brink of war.

The quickly spiraling crisis saw the deployment of both countries’ special forces, the involvement of the United States, and the tragic loss of three Greek officers.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis paid tribute on Wednesday to the three Greek Navy officers who lost their lives.

“We honor the heroes Christodoulos Karathanasis, Panagiotis Vlahakos, and Ektoras Gialopsos, who sacrificed themselves in Imia for the freedom, integrity, and sovereignty of the homeland. The fateful day of January 31, 1996, will remind everyone of the importance of devotion to national duty,” Mitsotakis said in a social media post.

For the chronicle of the crisis please follow the link

Almost thirty years later, Professor Panayiotis Ioakimidis, from the University of Athens highlighted recently four major lessons learned from that crisis that can be useful in facing similar incidents in the future as relations with Turkey are reaching boiling point.

Four lessons from the Imia crisis

Writing in Ta Nea newspaper, Ioakimidis listed the lessons:

First, foreign policy cannot, and should not be conducted by irresponsible local actors, whether they are “concerned citizens”, police chiefs, priests and others.

Foreign policy (and any policy for that matter) should be exercised institutionally and responsibly by the democratically elected political leadership.

This is because as he notes the Imia crisis assumed its explosive dimensions on January 25, 1996, when the mayor of the island Kalymnos and some others decided on their own initiative and without any prior consultation to raise the Greek flag in the small Imia.

Although on December 29, 1995, Turkey had disputed the Greek ownership – the sovereignty of the islets, this was a major issue to be dealt with by the responsible government of the country. And Turkey of course reacted to the Greek action.

Second, mass media cannot “practice or enforce” politics, much less foreign policy. Their role is to inform, to criticize, to express opinions. The escalation of the crisis occurred when Turkish journalists of the Hurriyet newspaper accompanied by a television crew lowered the Greek flag and raised the Turkish one in the small Imia.

Action that rightfully constituted a cause of war for the Greek side. At the same time, the departure of the Greek fleet from the Salamis naval station was broadcast live by the Greek television networks creating hysteria about an imminent war.

Third, regardless of whether some events were set up or not on the part of Turkey to challenge the Greek sovereignty of Imia, there were no channels of communication between the two governments. If such channels existed, the escalation that led to the loss of life, of the three Greek Navy officers might have been avoided

Fourth, the need for a strong honest broker between Greece and Turkey was certified by the decisive role played by the USA at the time in preventing the war.

It was only the shuttle diplomacy between Greece and Turkey by the U.S., as NATO’s largest military power, that halted the escalations and returned the situation to an enduring and frosty stalemate.

Greece and Turkey continue to disagree on the islets’ sovereignty and no military forces are stationed there.

See all the latest news from Greece and the world at Contact our newsroom to report an update or send your story, photos and videos. Follow GR on Google News and subscribe here to our daily email!

Related Posts