Turkish media report that Turkish coast guard blocked Greece’s National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos from approaching the islets of Imia in the Aegean Sea on Sunday, January 28. Mr Kammenos visited the region accompanied by the Chief of General Staff of the Greek Air Force, Vice-Admiral Nikolaos Tsounis on board gunboat Nikiphoros performed a brief wreath throwing ceremony in memory of fallen Hellenic Navy Officers Panayiotis Vlachakos, Christodoulos Karathanassis, Hector Yalosopou who died on the night of the Imia showdown with Turkey in 1996.
As Turkish media outlet Hurriyet reported: “Coastguard officers warned off Panos Kammenos, who was heading to the Kardak (Imia) islets in an assault boat to lay a wreath there. Following the warning, the Greek boat left Turkey’s territorial waters without further incident, the ministry added.
In a statement, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said the coast guard units “did what was necessary.”
The Turkish General Staff also said in a written statement that the Greek naval vessel Nikiforos and a Greek Coast Guard boat had been moving towards the islets at 11.30 a.m. local time.
Their approach was blocked by Turkish Naval Forces and Coast Guard units said the military.
It added that the Turkish Armed Forces continue to determinedly protect the nation’s rights and interests stemming from international law and agreements.”
The photographs released by the Turkish side clearly show two Turkish vessels, a coastguard and an anti-submarine boat, much closer to Imia, than the Nikiphoros gunboat. In addition, Turkish helicopters were flying over the area.
The Greek Defence Ministry issues a bulletin saying the Minister had performed a wreath-throwing ceremony in the area of Imia in honour of the three Greek servicemen.
“We are here today to offer honours to the heroes of our Navy who fell for faith and homeland in 1996 in Imia. Panagiotis Vlahakos, Christodoulos Karathanassis and Hector Yalosops will remain in the pantheon of heroes”, the Mr Kammenos said in the statement realised by the Ministry.