Turkey looks to ease Aegean tensions

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By Euronews
Turkey looks to ease Aegean tensions

In 1996, the tiny, uninhabited islands of Imia - or Kardak, as they are known in Turkey - brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war and tensions have remained high ever since.

Monday (February 12) saw another clash when a Turkish coast guard vessel rammed a Greek boat in the vicinity.

Many in Turkey dispute Greek ownership of the Aegean islets near Turkey's coastline.

The ramming incident comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a warning on Tuesday (February 13) to Greece, Cyprus and international companies exploring for gas in the eastern Mediterranean not to "step out of line" and encroach on Turkey's rights.

Now it seems Turkey is trying to calm the waters.

"Recently, there have been some violations during this tension, which started with the Kardak rocks, to which we gave a response," Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told reporters on Wednesday (February 14). We agreed with Greece to ease the tensions and keep the line of communication open via political and diplomatic channels as part of a mutual understanding".

Greece also seems ready to deescalate the situation with its NATO ally.

"Greece is the country that although it has been attacked several times by Turkey, we support its accession to the EU," Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos told euronews. "But Greece is also a country that must defend its territorial integrity as well as Europe's borders".

Asked about the recent incidents in the Aegean, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was unequivocal in his response, saying "I am strictly against behaviour of Turkey".

EU leaders are scheduled to meet Turkish President Erdogan in March to discuss relations between the bloc and the membership candidate country.