NYT: Tensions high between Greece and Turkey over Imia isles

2 February 2017
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New York Times correspondent to Turkey, Patrick Kingsley writes a piece entitled “Turkey and Greece Trade Jabs in Island Dispute” where he lays out the recent escalation in tensions between the two countries over the rocky isles of Imia in the eastern region of the Aegean Sea. From the NYT article:
Turkey and Greece have reignited a decades-old disagreement over the sovereignty of a pair of uninhabited Aegean Islands, in a spat that analysts say risks aggravating other diplomatic disputes between the two countries.

The Greek defense minister, Panos Kammenos, flew over the two disputed islands on Wednesday, the Greek government said, in a pointed response to a visit three days earlier to nearby waters by the commander of the Turkish armed forces, Hulusi Akar.

The exchange is the most public disagreement over the tiny islands’ sovereignty since 1996, when soldiers from both countries landed on them before American-led mediation persuaded both sides to leave the area.

Turkey disputes Greece’s claim that the islands — known as Imia in Greece and Kardak in Turkey — entered Greek ownership in 1947, after first being assigned to Italy in 1923 following the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Analysts said that Turkey’s recent incursions were a response to the decision by the Greek Supreme Court last week to block the extradition of eight Turkish airmen accused of participating in the failed attempt last July to oust the Turkish government. They also warned that the dispute risked complicating negotiations over the reunification of Cyprus.

Turkey has itself said the case could derail a migration pact between Greece and Turkey that has helped to stem the flow of migrants between Turkey and Europe significantly.

Sinan Ulgen, a Turkey scholar at Carnegie Europe, said he did not believe the dispute would spiral into military conflict.

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