The Turkish government is directly rejecting Greek sovereignty over the Imia islets, declaring them Turkish and expressing objections to the inclusion of 2,000 Greek rock islets in the Aegean in the European Union’s Natura 2000 programme, warning the Europeans not to allow Greece to use it as a tool to advance its interests in the Aegean.

The Greek foreign ministry issued a stern statement. “The legal status of Imia is completely guaranteed and Greek sovereignty over them is a given and indisputable. Turkey is making a mistake if it thinks that in the Aegean it can violate international law without consequences, as it does in other areas in its neighbourhood. We advise them to watch their words,” the statement read.

That was a response to the remarks of Turkish foreign ministry spokesmam Hami Aksoy, regarding the inclusion of Imia among the 446 areas in all of Greece inducted in the Natura 2,000 programme, which was published in the Greek Government Gazette.

Aksoy charged that Greece is exploiting programmes such as Natura 2000 to advance its positions on the Aegean.
“We take this opportunity to state that there is no doubt about the sovereignty of Turkey over the Kardak (Imia) rocks. Moreover, we will not accept any possible fait accompli to be presented by Greece towards the geographical formations in the Aegean Sea, legal status of which are disputed (a reference to hundreds of other islets). Lastly, we would like to reiterate that the Greek Law no. 4519 (regarding Natura 2000) will not bear any legal effect regarding the disputes existing between Turkey and Greece in the Aegean Sea,” the Turkish foreign ministry statement read.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also sharply answered Greek Defence Minister Panos’ Kammenos’ remarks about the Greeks defeating the Ottomans in the 1821 War of Independence, declaring that the Greeks should remember 9 September, 1922, a reference to the Asia Minor catastrophe.

Yildirim declared that Turkey will never tolerate violations of its sovereignty in the Mediterranean and the Aegean. Those who act as “pirates” in the Aegean, he said, should remember 9 September, 1922.

To top it all off, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who entered the Hagia Sophia museum on 31 March to inaugurate the first Istanbul Yeditepe Biennale of Classical Turkish art, declared that the Byzantine monument is a mosque, recited prayers from the Quran and greeted the crowd with the four-finger salutation of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Angelos Athanasopoulos