Simitis: Turkey may try to set up new Imia crisis, military on alert

Former Prime Minister Costas Simitis has warned that given the heightened tensions in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, Ankara may try to set up a military clash as it did when he was PM in 1996.

Simitis succeeded a dying Andreas Papandreou after his resignation in mid-January and within days Turkey sent commandos to land on one of the two Imia islets that belong to Greece.

That brought the two countries to the brink of war and it took the active diplomacy and intervention of the Clinton administration to secure an agreement that both sides would withdraw their forces from the area and that neither Greece nor Turkey would place their flag on either of the rock islets.

Simitis expressed fears that Ankara may again move to exploit the power vacuum in Athens after the 7 July general election and during the transition between the outgoing and incoming government.

In an opinion piece in the 9 July Sunday edition of the daily Kathimerini, Simitis stated that, "It is my conviction that the Imia problem in 1996 was not a coincidence. The Turkish leadership at the time wanted to exploit the crisis caused by the illness of Andreas Papandreou, his resignation, and the election of a new leadership, which it felt it could take by surprise. One cannot rule out similar thoughts in today's Turkish leadership. The intense political clash in Greece due to the [upcoming] election creates favourable conditions for actions [by Ankara]. Turkey may consider that this period is opportune for it to impose its views on the delimitation of Greece's territorial waters and continental shelf. A Turkish ship searching for oil and gas deposits is already sailing above Cyprus' continental shelf. Turkey may quite possibly send a ship to a portion of the continental...

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