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Turkish Commanders Tour Kardak Islets, tension rises btw Turkey & Greece

By Alim Kahraman

On 29 January 2017, Chief of General Staff General Hulusi Akar, Naval Forces Command Admiral Bülent Bostanoğlu and Air Force Commander General Abidin Ünal travelled for about three hours on the missile boat TCG MELTEM to the vicinity of the Kardak Islets. The officers onboard TCG MELTEM were escorted by two Special Operation Crafts and one Coast Guard boat. A shadowing group of Greek Coast Guard boats did not intervene with the Turkish ships. However, the Greek defence ministry stated that “a Turkish navy missile boat along with two special operations crafts entered Greek territorial waters near the Kardak islets and they left the area after about seven minutes.”

The tour took place on the anniversary of Kardak Crisis between Turkey and Greece at the beginning of 1996. However, the timing of the tour drew the public’s attention as it closely followed a decision by the Greek Supreme Court to reject the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers who were involved in the July 15 coup attempt and subsequently fled to Greece by helicopter. There was also another analysis of the tour: the tour could lead to a resurgence of the crises that have previously arisen between Greece and Turkey. However, it is worth noting that on January 30, 2015, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kamenos left a wreath on the sea around the Kardak Islets for the soldiers who died in the Greek helicopter crash during the Kardak Crisis. No crisis arose due to this ceremony.  


The crisis began on December 25, 1995, when M/V Figen Akat run aground on the Kardak Islets, bringing Turkey and Greece to the brink of war. After a dispute between the Turkish and Greek rescue teams over the rescue of the grounded ship, Greece claimed that the sea accident had occurred in its own territorial waters, while Turkey stated that the islets belonged to it.

First, a flag-planting race began between civil elements, before gaining a military dimension on January 28, 1996, when the Greek Navy landed troops and planted a flag on the eastern islet. The two countries deployed warships around the islets. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Çiller said that “the flag would go down and that soldier would go”, and added that “the Turkish Armed Forces were ready for war”. After diplomatic initiatives between the two countries failed, Turkish Naval Commandos passed by the Greek warships on January 30, 1996, and planted a Turkish flag after arriving at the western island. Later, the crisis came to an end when the US and NATO stepped in.

A Greek Helicopter crashed and three Greek soldiers were killed on January 30, 1996 when the crisis was at its peak.


One of the harshest reactions to the tour came from Ali Türkşen who was the commander of the Naval Commando team who arrived on Kardak Islet on January 30, 1996. Türkşen wrote on Twitter: “If you can’t go to the islet where two officers ranked Lieutenant Junior Grade and 10 petty officers could go in the past, when there was no presidency (executive presidency), with brass hat generals and admirals. Then the fault is not with the system, but the management. #no #no #no to presidency.”

Editor: Michael Hornsby


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