Ship boat

Turkey accuses Greek coastguard of shooting cargo ship in Aegean Sea

ISTANBUL — Greek coastguard vessels opened fire on a cargo ship sailing in international waters in the Aegean Sea, the Turkish coastguard said, heightening tensions between regional rivals that have escalated in recent weeks.

There were no casualties in the shooting 11 nautical miles (13 miles) southwest of the Turkish island of Bozcaada on Saturday, the Turkish statement said. He added that after “harassing fire” from two Greek Coastguard vessels, two Turkish Coastguard vessels went to the area and the Greek boats left.

Calls to the Greek embassy in Ankara went unanswered on Sunday, and it is unclear why the shootings took place.

Neighboring countries have been embroiled in disputes for decades and friction has intensified in recent weeks, with both sides alleging airspace violations. Greek officials have raised concerns about a new outbreak of conflict in Europe, following Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Turkey claims Greece is breaking international agreements by maintaining a military presence on islands near Turkey’s Aegean coast. He also accused Greek air defenses of locking in on Turkish fighter jets during NATO drills over the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece says it must defend its eastern islands – including the tourist hotspots of Rhodes and Kos, which are much closer to Turkey than to the Greek mainland – against its larger and militarily stronger neighbour.

Video footage from Saturday allegedly shows a Greek coastguard vessel alongside the Comoros-flagged vessel Anatolian as the sound of a dozen gunshots is heard. A crew member speaks in Turkish, saying they are under attack from the Greek Coast Guard.

The video, which was released by the Turkish Coast Guard and appears to have been filmed on a mobile phone, shows what appears to be a bullet hole in a window and in the deck ceiling of the freighter.

The Turkish statement said the shots were “in defiance of the rules of international law”. The Anatolian’s 18-member crew consisted of six Egyptians, four Somalis, five Azerbaijanis and three Turks.

A Turkish prosecutor has ordered an investigation. The country has also protested to Greek authorities, with Ankara demanding a prompt investigation and explanation.

The Anatolian was anchored in the Dardanelles Strait off the Turkish coast on Sunday, the official Anadolu news agency reported.

This week, the Greek government wrote letters to NATO, the European Union and the United Nations, asking them to formally condemn the increasingly aggressive remarks of Turkish officials and suggesting that tensions could escalate into open conflict. .

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said the behavior of Turkey – also a NATO member – risked “a situation similar to what is currently unfolding in another part of our continent”, referring to the war in Ukraine.

The Marine Traffic website, which monitors global shipping, says the Anatolian was previously called the Mavi Marmara. Israeli commandos stormed the ship – then a passenger ship – in 2010 as it attempted to breach a blockade on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, killing nine Turkish militants, including a dual US citizen.

The Mavi Marmara incident led to a serious diplomatic rift between Israel and Turkey, which withdrew its ambassador to Israel and reduced military and economic ties. Israel later apologized for the death and agreed to compensate the families of the victims.

In its entry for the Anatolian, Marine Traffic carried photographs of the Mavi Marmara with Turkish and Palestinian flags hanging from its sides. The last location recorded by the website for the Anatolian was in the Somali capital Mogadishu in late June.