In yet another instance of tension at the sea borders between Greece and Turkey, a Turkish patrol boat hit lightly against a Greek gunboat in the area around the Greek Imia islets in the Aegean.
The captain of the Turkish patrol boat reportedly engaged in a dangerous manoeuvre in which the boat lightly struck the Greek gunboat Nikiforos, without damaging it.
This is the second reported tense incident between Greek and Turkish boats near Imia this month.
Observers note that because January is fishing season for the popular gilthead bream fish (tsipoura in Greek) in this part of the Aegean, there have often been minor episodes over the years between the Greek and Turkish coastguard boats, each protecting their country’s fishing boats.
However, the most recent incidents come on the heels of heightened declarations of Aegean territorial claims by Turkey and hostile moves in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus, where Ankara is planning to commence illegal oil and gas exploration in the near future.
The Greek Defence Ministry stated that the Greek gunboat, which was conducting a scheduled patrol in the area, suffered no damage.
The Turkish patrol boat left the scene immediately after the incident.
Turkey has for over two decades challenged Greek sovereignty over the Imia islets, which in 1996 brought the two countries to the brink of war. Since then both sides have consensually kept a distance from the islets.
In December, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told the parliament in Ankara that there is a “grey status”, meaning disputed sovereignty, over 132 rock islets in the Aegean.