Fresh tensions in Eastern Mediterranean after Greek and Turkish coast guard boats collide

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By Euronews  •  last updated: 07/01/2021 - 17:09


Historic disputes over the islets or Imai/Kardak have previously brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war.   -   Copyright  FILE 1996 - AP Photo/Hurriyet

Tensions have been heightened once again in the Eastern Mediterranean after Greek and Turkish coast guard vessels collided.

The two patrol boats came together in the early hours on Wednesday morning in the Aegean Sea near the rocky islets of Imia, also known as Kardak in Turkish. No injuries have been reported by either side.

In a statement, the Greek Coast Guard said a vessel of the Port Authority of Kos had been "disturbed" by a Turkish boat, resulting in "minor material damage".

Meanwhile, the Turkish Coast Guard has accused two Greek vessels of violating their territorial waters.

"With the preventive maneuvers carried out by four Turkish Coast Guard Boats, two Greek elements that violated the territorial waters were removed," said a statement.

The Turkish Coast Guard added that "friction" was experienced between two coast guard boats during the incident.

A universal legacy

"The Coast Guard Command is on duty ... to ensure the safety and security of our seas," Turkey added.

Greece has described the collision as "harassment" and said their vessel was performing an ordered service in the wider sea area.

The two NATO countries have been arguing for decades about sovereign rights in the Aegean Sea as well as the extent of the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Disputes have been heightened in recent months after a Greek frigate collided with a Turkish frigate in August last year.

In 1996, the two sides were brought to the brink of war over the uninhabited rocky islets of Imia or Kardak, which was avoided after diplomatic intervention by the United States.