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3 Jul, 2017 14:59

Greek coast guard opens fire on Turkish-flagged cargo vessel in Aegean Sea – report

Greek coast guard opens fire on Turkish-flagged cargo vessel in Aegean Sea – report

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it strongly condemns the incident in which Greek coast guard boats reportedly fired shots at a Turkish freighter in the Aegean Sea on Monday, calling it an “unmeasured” act on the part of Athens.

"There is no justification... for firing on an unarmed commercial ship carrying freight between two Turkish ports. Our sole consolation is that nobody was killed or injured as a result of the incident," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Ankara said it condemns the actions of the Greek coast guard, carried out in “disregard for human life, which is the most basic right.”

The ministry said it was important to notify the international community of Athens’ behavior to make sure “similar events will never happen again.”

A cargo vessel sailing under the Turkish flag, named ‘ACT,’ has come under fire from Greek coast guard boats in the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s NTV broadcaster reported.

The freighter reportedly picked up cargo in the Turkish port of Iskenderun and was moving in the direction of the Izmit Bay of the Sea of Marmara.

While in the Aegean Sea, the Turkish ship was approached by Greek coast guard vessels, which demanded that it enter a port on the Greek island of Rhodes for cargo inspection.

The Turkish captain allegedly ignored the call, which led to the Greek coast guards opening fire on the freighter.

The crew of the ‘ACT’ said they discovered 16 bullet holes in the ship’s hull following the incident.

There were no reports of injuries or fatalities on board, and the freighter continued on its route.

Two vessels of the Turkish coast guard reportedly arrived at the scene of the incident shortly afterwards.

The freighter's captain, Sami Kalkavan, told CNN Turk that the Greek coast guard approached his ship when it was passing Rhodes and demanded that it enter the port on the island.

“We did not accept this. They wanted to check (the ship), and we didn't accept that. They said they would fire if we didn't stop, they did what they said. Now there are 16 holes in the ship,” he said.

According to the captain, the damage done to the ship hasn’t affected its buoyancy and there’s no danger of water getting in.

Kalkavan didn’t specify what cargo his ship was carrying and why he didn’t want it to be inspected.

The Greek coast guard said in a statement that only warning shots were fired as a vessel carrying a Turkish flag refused to cooperate before returning to Turkish waters.

Relations between Turkey and Greece have been strained for decades, as the neighbors fought over Cyprus in 1974 and stood on the brink of another conflict over an uninhabited isle in the Aegean Sea in 1996.

Greece says it registers thousands of violations of its airspace by Turkish military jets every year, as well as frequent incursions by Turkish research vessels into its territorial waters.

Athens also refused to hand over to Ankara the eight officers who are accused in Turkey of participating in the attempted coup last summer.

The recent referendum to expand the powers of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan also added fuel to the fire, with the Greek military saying it was “ready to answer any provocation… because that is how we defend peace.”