A new incident that nearly led to a hot clash between Greek and Turkish vessels near the small island of Kastelorizo was averted at the last minute on 25 October, with the intervention of the US Embassy in Athens, according to a report aired on Star television news yesterday evening.

According to the report, a Turkish vessel sailing toward the tiny Greek island of Kastelorizo was identified and chased by two Hellenic Coast Guard vessels from the area.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Athens Geoffrey Pyatt averted a hot clash near Kastelorizi between a Greek frigate and the Turkish seismic research vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha, south of Kastelorizo, as military analyst Thanasis Drougos said in an interview with Star.

Pressuring Athens on several fronts, Turkish Defence Minister (and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Hulusi Akar, at the same time revived the longstanding Turkish demand for demilitarisation of Greece’s Eastern Aegean islands.

Kastelorizo is crucial geopolitically, as it is in an area found to be rich in hydrocarbons, where the Greek and Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zones are contiguous. The island has an area of five square miles and lies 80 miles from roads and only one mile from Turkey. The fact that under international law the island has a continental shelf and an EEZ, means that if Greece extends its EEZ for the full 200 miles, that would severely limit Turkey’s EEZ in the Mediterranean.

“Because in the past there were many Turkish ships and submarines, illegally, in the area of Cyprus’ EEZ, Pyatt saw the danger and intervened by contacting both Ankara and Nato’s Joint Force Command (JFC) in Naples,” Drougos revealed.

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos also referred to the issue in an interview with journalist Katia Makri.

“The Hellenic Navy is in Greece’s EEZ in the area of Cyprus, within Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone, defending the Greek area.