In a clearly symbolic response to Ankara’s mounting challenges to Greek sovereignty over 18 Aegean islets, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is planning to spend the major religious holiday of the Epiphany of Christ, 6 January, on the Dodecanese islands of Kalymnos and Farmakonisi.
Tsipras will be accompanied by Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis.
The trip has not been officially announced, as the final details are being arranged.
What is clear, however, is that the visit comes after top Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, have challenged Greek sovereignty over a number of Aegean islets and rocks.
Turkish media setting up new Imia crisis?
The leak about the visit from the prime minister’s office comes one day after Turkey’s major Dogan News Agency reported that, “The Turkish Coast Guard prevented one Greek battleship and two Greek Coast Guard boats from approaching the disputed islands of Kardak [Imia] on January 3.”
The report was quoted in Hurriyet English, and it indicated that the two country’s boats were 30 metres apart and ran parallel to each other off the coast of Bodrum, during a five hour stand-off which began at 10am, on 3 January, because allegedly Greek ships were trying to approach the rock islets.
That would be highly unusual, as there has been an understanding since the Imia crisis of 1996, which brought the two countries to the brink of war, and neither country’s ships approach the rock islets.
There has been no confirmation or denial from either the Greek or Turkish ministries of defence ministry and foreign affairs.