February 8, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

On the Edge: Turkish Coast Guard Boat "clipped" Greek watchdog

For a moment from the armed incident in the neutral waters of the Aegean Sea, there were teams of ships of the Greek and Turkish coast guards, which arrived on Tuesday morning to the island of Samos.

While the crew of the Turkish vessel was challenging the area of ​​responsibility of Greece for search and rescue, the members of the two teams stood at a distance of several meters from each other with weapons in their hands, waiting for the order to use them. Which, fortunately, didn’t happen.

The events described by Coast Guard officers have been confirmed by the crew of an Italian vessel operating in the area on behalf of the European agency Frontex. Well-informed sources say that in their report to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, the Italians confirmed that the incident occurred in the Greek area of ​​responsibility for search and rescue, and in the area where Frontex’s Operation Poseidon is taking place.

The key role was allegedly played by the Turkish-owned tanker Petrobulk 1, which, although requisitioned by the National Search and Rescue Coordinating Center (EKSED) for the search for a sunken ship, handed over the body it found to the Turkish patrol, which led to the movement of watercraft of the coastal protection of a neighboring country in the area of ​​​​responsibility of Greece.

In addition to the movement of the gun of the Turkish ship, aimed at the Greek High Seas Coast Guard ship “080” (recorded in the released video), it seems that both the crew members of the Turkish ship and the Greek Rafnar-class vessel involved in the incident took up arms in a special dangerous escalation of tension in the Eastern Aegean. The reason for all this was a shipwreck that occurred on Monday in the sea area 3.8 nautical miles south of Samos. It was at noon when a fishing boat spotted and rescued two shipwrecked people. They said they were on board an inflatable boat with ten other migrants, which took on water and capsized. On the orders of HCSED, a search and rescue operation was launched involving two coast guard vessels and an Italian coast guard vessel CP 329 operating under the Frontex umbrella, and the tanker “Petrobulk 1” was also involved. The vessel flies the flag of Saint Kitts and Navis and is operated by an Istanbul shipping company. The Italian crew of the vessel Frontex confirms that the incident caused by the actions of the Turkish coast guard on Samos occurred in the area of ​​​​responsibility of the Greek search and rescue service.

On Tuesday morning, the crews of the Greek ships noticed movement among the crew members of the merchant ship. From an inflatable and more maneuverable Rafnar-type boat, they saw that the crew of Petrobulk 1 removed the body of the deceased from the water. They radioed the bridge of the watchtower to retrieve the body, to which the captain of the Petrobulk 1 replied that he had notified the Turkish Coast Guard. As a result, the Turkish boat, which until that moment had not participated in the operation, went to the place of discovery and launched an inflatable boat to pick up the body.

As the Greek vessel approached the Turkish Coast Guard boat, about ten Turkish soldiers came on deck, displaying their weapons. In response, the officers of the Greek Coast Guard aboard the Rafnar were ordered to take up arms, but not to use them unless ordered by the captain. At the same time, a second Turkish boat approached the scene and, with dangerous maneuvers (the corresponding video was released yesterday), tried to prevent the Greek patrol boat from coming to the rescue. The Turks eventually picked up the body and then left the scene. It should be noted that the search and rescue operation in the area off Karystos, where a sailboat with about 68 passengers, mostly children, sank on Monday evening, continues. By 12 noon on December 20, 12 people had been rescued, and 20 dead bodies had also been found.

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