ATHENS (Reuters) – Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday Greece would not tolerate any challenge to its territorial integrity, days after Turkish and Greek coastguard vessels collided close to disputed islets in the Aegean Sea.
“Our message, now, tomorrow and always, is clear… Greece will not allow, accept or tolerate any challenge to its territorial integrity and its sovereign rights.”
“Greece is not a country which plays games,” Tsipras told an audience at the cοuntry’s shipping ministry.
The collision involving the two vessels occurred on Monday evening off Imia, known as Kardak in Turkish. Each side blamed the other for the incident.
Turkey and Greece, NATO allies, have been at odds over a host of issues from ethnically split Cyprus to sovereignty over airspace and overflights.
They came to the brink of war in 1996 in a sovereignty dispute over the islets, but tensions have eased since.
Noting that Greece’s eastern border is also that of the European Union, Tsipras said: “Challenges and aggressive rhetoric against the sovereign rights of an EU member state are against the EU in its entirety.”
Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise since a Greek court blocked the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers whom Ankara accuses of involvement in a failed coup against President Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos, writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Gareth Jones)