Greek Navy cannon vessel turns away Turkish warship from Aegean islets: ministry

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Greece's Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that a Greek Navy cannon vessel and Greek Coast Guard patrol vessels turned away a Turkish flotilla away from what are known in Greece as the Imia islets and in Turkey as the Kardak islets.

According to an official statement of the Greek ministry, a Turkish warship accompanied by two dinghies tried to approach the disputed islets which 21 years ago brought the two neighboring countries to the brink of war.

"The Turkish vessels remained in the area for approximately seven minutes violating the Greek territorial waters. The Greek Navy cannon ship 'Krateos' and coast guard patrol vessels sailing in the area called on the Turkish ships to leave. The Turkish flotilla sailed to the port of Bodrum," the announcement said.

Greek government sources viewed the incident as a "provocation" by Ankara in the context of the mounting tension in bilateral ties regarding the case of the eight Turkish servicemen who sought asylum in Greece last July.

On Thursday Greece's Supreme Court turned down the request for their extradition citing concern over their treatment in Turkey.

Turkish authorities accuse the eight men of participating in the failed coup attempt and Greece of making a politically motivated decision. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has warned with a review of bilateral cooperation.

The two countries have been engaged in disputes over sovereignty rights in the Aegean Sea for decades dating back to the Imia/Kardak military crisis in 1996 in the Aegean.

Known as Imia islet by Greece and Kardak islet by Turkey, the islet was the subject of a dispute over sovereignty which arose after a Turkish cargo vessel ran aground on the islet on Christmas Eve 1995. Tension gradually increased in following days as the two sides could not agree which was responsible for the salvage operation.

Then, on the night of Jan. 31, 1996, a Greek helicopter with three officers on board crashed on Imia under initially unclear circumstances that further escalated tensions. With foreign mediation the crisis de-escalated, although the territorial issue remains unresolved. Endit

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