The Greek foreign ministry has filed a strongly worded demarche with the general secretary of the Turkish foreign ministry over an incident that could have potentially led to the sinking of a Greek ship, in Greek territorial waters in the vicinity of the Imia islets.
The incident was condemned by the Greek government and opposition parties.
The Turkish Coast Guard ship “UMUT” attempted to ram in its centre the Greek Coast Guard ship “Gavdos” east of the Greek rock islets of Imia, which was avoided by a last-minute manoeuvre of the Greek ship, the stern of which was struck by the Turkish vessel.
Greek sources say the Turkish ship’s move was extremely hostile, as the “UMUT” sailed full speed ahead towards the “Gavdos”, giving the impression that the aim was to sink the Greek ship.
Sources told in.gr that the “UMUT” attempted to provoke a similar incident with a Hellenic Navy ship last weekend, but that the rapid response of the Greek ship averted a collision.
The Coast Guard ship “Gavdos”, with a 27-member crew, was on patrol in the environs of Imia at the time of the collision. There was only material damage, and the ship was transported for repair to the island of Leros.
After the incident, the Turkish ship distanced itself from the Turkish coast, even as the Hellenic Coast Guard command informed the Greek Defence Ministry and the Greek Foreign Ministry.
The Greek foreign ministry said it has delivered a strongly worded demarche to Ankara.
The Hellenic Coast Guard command issues the following announcement:
“At approximately 23:40 yesterday, in the sea area east of the Imia islets, a Turkish Coast Guard ship, which was sailing within Greek territorial waters, conducted dangerous manoeuvres in violation of the International Regulations for avoiding Collisions at Sea, striking the left stern of the Coast Guard’s Open Sea Patrol Boat “Gavdos 090”, which was on patrol in the area. The collision caused material damage to the Coast Guard’s Open Sea Ship “090” and there were no injuries to crew members. The said Open Sea Ship was purchased with European Union Funding, with the aim of patrolling Greek and European Sea borders.
The previous incident
The Turkish naval presence around Imia has been heightened in recent weeks, even as Greece has sent out Coast Guard ships and not navy ships.
On 17 January, a Turkish Coast Guard vessel sailing within Greek territorial waters struck the Greek Navy gunboat “Nikiforos”, which was on a scheduled patrol in the vicinity of Imia.
When the Turkish Navy anti-submarine ship “Köyceğiz” approached the Imia islets, the “Nikiforos” followed it. At that point, a third Turkish Coast Guard vessel appeared and conducted manoeuvres around the “Nikiforos” at a distance of 1.5 kilometres from Imia, finally striking the left side of the Greek naval vessel.