Former Greek DM: Numerous instances could have turned into 'Imia-like' incidents in Aegean

Thursday, 19 September 2019 16:16
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Greece's up-until-recently defense minister on Thursday said there were "numerous instances" during his brief tenure that incidents that could have turned into another "Imia incident", referring to a January 1996 standoff between Athens and Ankara that almost sparked a conflict.

Speaking to the Athens-based television station Skai, retired admiral Evangelos Apostolakis said:

"This didn't depend only why they (incidents) started. If we reacted to the provocations and created an escalation ... then it may be worse to step back," he said, adding that he often called then prime minister Alexis Tsipras to brief him over the situation.

Asked about official Turkey's stance and its goal, Apostolakis said it was "crystal clear".

"They (Turkish armed forces) reveal this by the way they move and the positions they take; they want to have a say in developments in the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean. They belive they have greater rights than what international law gives them. I consider that in order to deal with them, a constant pressure needs to be exerted, not just towards the Turkey, but for us to apply all of our diplomatic tools; pressure must not stop," he added.

Before being tapped as the defense minister in January 2019, Apostolakis was career naval office, retiring as the chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, a similarity he shares with current Turkish DM Hulusi Akar.

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