Imia Crisis: A battle between flags

·

The small Greek island of Imia was almost the catalyst of war between Greece and Turkey in 1996, and remains a sensitive topic for leaders of both nations.

An issue first arose on Christmas Day in 1995, when a Turkish cargo ship “Figen Akat” hit shallow waters near Eastern Imia and emitted a distress signal. The Greek Coast Guard came to the ship only to be turned away by the captain, who claimed he was in a Turkish area.

The two Foreign Affairs Ministries communicated and worked together to rescue the ship. Thought to have ended there, only three days later a Turkish fighter plane crashed in Greek territorial waters, in the area of ​​Lesvos, after engaging with Greek fighters. With Greek help, the Turkish pilot was rescued.

However, The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs took advantage of the situation and tried to claim the Imia islets as being registered in the Mugla cadastre of Boudrum and belonging to Turkey. On January 9, 1996, The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded, rejecting the announcement.

One week later, Greece sends out vigilance measures in the area of ​​Imia to protect the isles.

On January 26, 1996, the mayor of Kalymnos, Dimitris Diakomichalis, raised the Greek flag on one of the two islands. Yet, it only took one day for two ‘Hurriyet’ journalists to fly to Megali Imia by helicopter. They raised their own Turkish flag, broadcasted live by the Hurriyet TV channel.

Turkish reporters helicoptered in to plant flag on Imia islet, January 1996. (file photo)

Another day passes, another flag raised. This time, a patrol boat of the Navy “Antonios” lowers the Turkish flag and raises the Greek one.

Greece’s new Prime Minister Costas Simitis later sends a message to Turkey that Greece will respond immediately and vigorously to any challenge. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, meanwhile, called for negotiations on the status of the Aegean islets. This was done, however, while Turkish warships enter Greek territorial waters and approach Imia.

On January 30, US President Bill Clinton weighed in on the conflict, shocked at the escalation.

“I thought my aides were joking when they said Turkey and Greece would engage in war over rocks on which none but sheep live. I held phone calls with the leaders of both countries, and convinced them to not go to war over the rocks that inhabited mostly 20 sheep,” Bill Clinton said about the crisis.

The Greek government said they are ready to withdraw the procession, but not the Greek flag. The Turkish Foreign Minister responded saying there are other Aegean islands with unclear legal status and does not accept the Greek proposal (departure of the procession, not the flag).

Naval helicopter which crashed during the 1996 Imia crisis (file photo).

On January 31, Greek forces feared the worst as information arrived claiming Turkish commandos are landing in Imia. Helicopter of the Greek Navy confirmed a few hours later that around 10 Turkish commandos stood on the island with their flag. That same helicopter later took damage and disappeared, killing three Greek crew members.

The US Government soon intervened, arguing for a diplomatic solution. By noon on 31 January, 1996, the ships, soldiers and flags had been withdrawn from Imia.

The crisis had no effect on the status of the islands, yet it’s sovereignty is still in dispute by both nations. Currently, the islands are regarded as indisputably Greek by Greece but as grey zones of undetermined sovereignty by Turkey.

Sourced By: Sansimera

Advertisement

Share:

KEEP UP TO DATE WITH TGH

By subscribing you accept our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Advertisement

Latest News

NSW budget to deliver 30,000 new homes, promising historic investment in social housing

The NSW government will make the largest single investment in social housing in the state's history as part of the 2024-35 budget. Health, housing and...

Nick Kyrgios and mother recall terror of gunpoint Tesla robbery

Tennis star Nick Kyrgios and his mother have told a court of their anger and fear after a killer pointed a gun at his...

Ivan Javanovic to take the helm of Greece’s national football team

Serbian soccer coach, Ivan Jovanovic is set to take the helm of Greece’s national team after reaching an agreement with the Hellenic Soccer Federation. According...

Apostolos Papastamos breaks swimming record to win gold at European championship

Apostolos Papastamos scored a top-10 time in the world winning gold in the Men’s 400 individual medley at the 2024 European Championships.

Cyprus and the US launch strategic dialogue in historic moment

Cyprus and the United States declared on Monday that they will begin strategic dialogue to strengthen bilateral cooperation.

You May Also Like

‘It’s very difficult’: Future of Greek Australian cafes and milk bars the focus of online event

Macquarie University historian, Leonard Janiszewski, spoke about the future of Greek Australian cafes and milk bars in an online event.

New trendy Greek restaurant, ‘M.I.M by 1821’, to open on Pitt Street

The families of restaurateurs Jim Kospetas and Steve Anastasiou have combined forces to bring a new, trendy Greek restaurant to Sydney's Pitt Street.

Remembering Greek poet Vasiliki ‘Kiki’ Dimoula

A distinguished multi-award winning poet of the second post-war generation, Vasiliki “Kiki” Dimoula was born on June 6, 1931.