A US State Department spokesperson said that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and protected when speaking about the recent incident that occurred near the island of Farmakonisi, where a Greek coast guard vessel was harassed by a Turkish offshore vessel.
Responding to a reporter's question about the need for Turkey to respect the territorial waters of the islands located in the eastern Aegean, a State Department spokesperson reiterated the US' position for all parties to refrain from actions that risk escalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
As was pointed out, "there is no change in the long-term position of the US. We believe that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and protected.
"As a matter of principle, we encourage all states to resolve maritime delimitation issues peacefully in accordance with International Law.
"While the United States generally does not take sides on other states' maritime border disputes, we call on all parties to refrain from any actions that risk escalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"We continue to encourage our allies and partners to work together to maintain peace and security in the region, and to resolve disputes diplomatically. We urge all our allies to avoid threats and provocative rhetoric that will only increase tension and help no one."
Last week, three Turkish fishing boats were found within breathing distance of Farmakonisi island, well within Greek territorial waters, which then led to a Turkish Coast Guard vessel harassing the Greek Coast Guard in the Eastern Aegean.
Greek fishermen informed port authorities about the movements of the Turks and the reaction was immediate.
A patrol boat of the Greek Coast Guard sailed into the maritime area to approach the three Turkish vessels that had invaded Greek territorial waters under the supervision of a Turkish Coast Guard vessel.
The Coast Guard vessel's crew was forced to fire warning shots "in a safe area", as the Coast Guard officially informed, forcing the Turkish vessel to leave heading east towards the Turkish coast.
"As long as Turkey does not change its stance , such incidents will continue," said officials of the Coast Guard toProto Thema.
In recent months, the number of border incidents with Turkish offshore vessels related to violations of Greek territorial waters amounts to 50 and concern the entire wider area of the eastern Aegean from the Evros Delta to Megisti, according to sources cited by Proto Thema.
Comparison of 2020-2022 incidents:
- 724 in 2020
- 905 in 2021 an increase of 14%, while
- in 2022 the number of incidents skyrocketed to 1,798. increase rate 97%
Comparison of incoming Third Country Nationals (TCNs) 2020-2022:
- 10,074 in 2020,
- decreased to 4,677 in 2021 and
- in 2022 their number skyrocketed to 12,140, an increase of 159.5%.
Comparison of Unavoidable Third Country Nationals (TCNs) 2020-2022:
- In 2020 it was 15,000, in 2021 it was 22,000 and in 2022 it skyrocketed to 42,300 an increase of 92.2%!
Many questions arise from the overall image and attitude of the Turkish Coast Guard, especially in the last period of time.
As can be seen from the recording of various incidents, its presence is meager and it is essentially absent from the sea area during the critical evening hours when the incidents of illegal entry take place.
Even more delayed is the activation and undertaking of incident management when they are within the Turkish territorial waters. And when they finally attempt it, it is always after pressure from Greece.
In the Eastern Aegean, the maritime borders are guarded with more than 70 boats and 2,500 personnel. The numbers for land border guarding are similar in terms of staffing.