Imia: How the crisis began at Christmas 1995

Imia: Collision of Greek, Turkish Coast Guard boats

The Imia crisis began at Christmas 1995. It culminated in the early hours of January 31, 1996, at a time when the Simitis government was taking its first steps and ended with the intervention of the US.

A crisis that had no consequences in terms of the status of the islands. However, it gave Turkey an occasion to raise the issue of “Grey Zones” in the Aegean, questioning Greece’s sovereignty over several islands and to raise another issue on the agenda of Greek-Turkish disputes.

Extension of territorial waters to 12 miles to the south and west of Crete from March

Despite this, the Greek side never accepted the existence of such an issue, citing international treaties.

The events in Imia shook the credibility of the Greek government at the time, especially when Prime Minister Costas Simitis thanked the Americans from the floor of Parliament for their catalytic role in de-escalating the tension.

Christmas of the Imian – How the Crisis Began

The crisis began on December 26, 1995, when the Turkish cargo ship “Figen Akat” ran aground on the rocky island of Imia, and the Turkish captain refused Greek assistance, claiming that the vessel was in Turkish waters.

The Turks tried to apply to the occasion their own interpretation of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), by which the Dodecanese had been ceded to Italy as a whole and not in name, and to dispute the Greek sovereignty of some rocky islands.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is informed, which informs the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the fact that without a tug, the Turkish ship will be in danger.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs clearly stated on December 27 that there is a sovereignty issue with the Imia islets.

Finally, Greek tugboats detached the ship on December 28, 1995.

The Imian crisis has already begun without anyone knowing it yet

On the morning of December 28, a Turkish fighter jet crashes in Greek territorial waters in the area of ​​Lesvos after an engagement with Greek fighters. With Greek help, the Turkish pilot is rescued.

December 29, 1995: The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes advantage of the situation and issues a verbal communication in the corresponding Greek, in which it is stated that the Imia islets are registered in the Mugla land register of the Bodrum (Halicarnassus) prefecture and belong to Turkey.

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs replies belatedly on 9 January 1996, rejecting the communication.

Papandreou’s resignation

On January 15, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who is being treated at “Onasio”, resigned due to illness. The PASOK parliamentary group elected Konstantinos Simitis, Prime Minister of Greece, on January 19, 1966.

Meanwhile, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having realized the “games” of Turkey, requested (on January 16) increased vigilance measures in the area of ​​Imia from the Ministry of National Defense.

The battle of the flag

On January 26, 1996, the then mayor of Kalymnos, Dimitris Diakomichalis, disturbed by the questioning of the Greekness of Imia, raised the Greek flag on one of the two islands, accompanied by the police director of Kalymnos, the priest and two residents of the island.

His comrades in PASOK will later accuse him of being the one who added fuel to the fire.

January 27, 1996: Two journalists from the Hurriyet newspaper in Izmir go by helicopter to Megali Imia. They lower the Greek flag and raise the Turkish flag. The “Harriet” television channel videotapes and shows the whole operation.

The front page of Hurriyet newspaper on January 28, 1996 (alt.gr)

January 28, 1996: The Navy patrol boat “Antonio” lowers the Turkish flag and raises the Greek one. At night, Greek frogmen disembarked at Megali Imia without being noticed by the Turkish warships sailing there.

The political mandate of the Greek military is to avoid any escalation of tension.

Simitis and Chiller

In the political field, on Monday afternoon, January 29, the new Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in his programmatic statements in Parliament, sent a message to Turkey that Greece would react immediately and dynamically to any challenge.

Today marks 27 years since the Imia crisis began at Christmas 1995. It culminated in the early hours of January 31, 1996, at a time when the Simitis government was taking its first steps and ended with the intervention of the US.

A crisis that had no consequences in terms of the status of the islands. However, it gave Turkey an occasion to raise the issue of “Grey Zones” in the Aegean, questioning Greece’s sovereignty over several islands and to raise another issue on the agenda of Greek-Turkish disputes.

Extension of territorial waters to 12 miles to the south and west of Crete from March

Despite this, the Greek side never accepted the existence of such an issue, citing international treaties.

The events in Imia shook the credibility of the Greek government at the time, especially when Prime Minister Costas Simitis thanked the Americans from the floor of Parliament for their catalytic role in de-escalating the tension.

Christmas of the Imian – How the Crisis Began

The crisis began on December 26, 1995, when the Turkish cargo ship “Figen Akat” ran aground on the rocky island of Imia, and the Turkish captain refused Greek assistance, claiming that the vessel was in Turkish waters.

The Turks tried to apply to the occasion their own interpretation of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), by which the Dodecanese had been ceded to Italy as a whole and not in name, and to dispute the Greek sovereignty of some rocky islands.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is informed, which informs the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the fact that without a tug, the Turkish ship will be in danger.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs clearly stated on December 27 that there is a sovereignty issue with the Imia islets.

Finally, Greek tugboats detached the ship on December 28, 1995.

The Imian crisis has already begun without anyone knowing it yet

On the morning of December 28, a Turkish fighter jet crashes in Greek territorial waters in the area of ​​Lesvos after an engagement with Greek fighters. With Greek help, the Turkish pilot is rescued.

December 29, 1995: The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes advantage of the situation and issues a verbal communication in the corresponding Greek, in which it is stated that the Imia islets are registered in the Mugla land register of the Bodrum (Halicarnassus) prefecture and belong to Turkey.

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied belatedly on 9 January 1996, rejecting the communication.

Papandreou’s resignation

On January 15, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who is being treated at “Onasio”, resigned due to illness. The PASOK parliamentary group elected Konstantinos Simitis, Prime Minister of Greece, on January 19, 1966.

Meanwhile, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having realized the “games” of Turkey, requested (on January 16) increased vigilance measures in the area of ​​Imia from the Ministry of National Defense.

The battle of the flag

On January 26, 1996, the then mayor of Kalymnos, Dimitris Diakomichalis, disturbed by the questioning of the Greekness of Imia, raised the Greek flag on one of the two islands, accompanied by the police director of Kalymnos, the priest and two residents of the island.

His comrades in PASOK will later accuse him of being the one who added fuel to the fire.

January 27, 1996: Two journalists from the Hurriyet newspaper in Izmir go by helicopter to Megali Imia. They lower the Greek flag and raise the Turkish flag. The “Hurriet” television channel videotapes and shows the whole operation.

The front page of Hurriyet newspaper on January 28, 1996 (alt.gr)

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Imia: How the crisis began at Christmas 1995 1

January 28, 1996: The Navy patrol boat “Antonio” lowers the Turkish flag and raises the Greek one. At night, Greek frogmen disembarked at Megali Imia without being noticed by the Turkish warships sailing there.

The political mandate of the Greek military is to avoid any escalation of tension.

Simitis and Chiller

In the political field, on Monday afternoon on January 29, the new Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in his programmatic statements in the Parliament, sends a message to Turkey, that Greece will react immediately and dynamically to any challenge.

On Tuesday, January 30, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Tansu Ciller, categorically stated in the Turkish parliament that the next day, the Greek flag and the Greek army will be removed from Imia.

January 30, 1996: Prime Minister Costas Simitis has a telephone conversation with US President Bill Clinton. He expresses to him the Greek position that our country does not want tension, but if it is provoked, it will react strongly. The government says it is ready to withdraw the flag, but not the Greek flag. The warships “Navarinos” and “Themistocles” rush to Imia.

The Turkish Foreign Minister states that other Aegean islands have unclear legal status and do not accept the Greek proposal (withdrawal of the flag, not the flag).

The Climax of the Crisis on January 31, 1996 – The Three Dead Pilots

On January 31, 1996, Turkish special forces landed at 01:40 at Mikri Imia, and almost three hours later, at 04:30, a helicopter of the Greek Navy flew over the islets to determine if there were indeed Turkish soldiers.

At 04:50, the helicopter crew reported that they spotted about 10 Turkish commandos. It is ordered to return to its base, and while flying, it reports a malfunction and is lost to radar.

Later, all three crew members, Lieutenant Christodoulos Karathanasis, Lieutenant Panagiotis Vlahakos and Chief Mate Hektor Gialopsos, are recovered dead.

US intervention – “No ships, no troops, no table-flags.”

Various opinions have been expressed regarding the causes of the helicopter crash. In Greece, there is a widespread opinion that the helicopter was shot down either by the Turkish Navy or by the Turkish commandos that were on the island and that the fact was concealed to end the crisis and not to lead the two countries into a generalized conflict.

Through Deputy Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, the Americans impose their will on both sides. “No ships, no troops, no table flags”, they announced, and so by noon on January 31, 1996, the ships, soldiers and flags had withdrawn from Imia.

On Tuesday, January 30, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Tansu Ciller, categorically stated in the Turkish parliament that the next day, the Greek flag and the Greek army would be removed from Imia.

January 30, 1996: Prime Minister Costas Simitis has a telephone conversation with US President Bill Clinton. He expresses to him the Greek position that our country does not want tension, but if it is provoked, it will react strongly. The government says it is ready to withdraw the flag, but not the Greek flag. The warships “Navarinos” and “Themistocles” rush to Imia.

The Turkish Foreign Minister states that other Aegean islands have unclear legal status and do not accept the Greek proposal (withdrawal of the flag, not the flag).

The Climax of the Crisis on January 31, 1996 – The Three Dead Pilots

On January 31, 1996, Turkish special forces landed at 01:40 at Mikri Imia, and almost three hours later, at 04:30, a helicopter of the Greek Navy flew over the islets to determine if there were indeed Turkish soldiers.

At 04:50, the helicopter crew reported that they spotted about 10 Turkish commandos. It is ordered to return to its base, and while flying, it reports a malfunction and is lost to radar.

Later, all three crew members, Lieutenant Christodoulos Karathanasis, Lieutenant Panagiotis Vlahakos and Chief Mate Hektor Gialopsos, are recovered dead.

US intervention – “No ships, no troops, no table-flags.”

Various opinions have been expressed regarding the causes of the helicopter crash. In Greece, there is a widespread opinion that the helicopter was shot down either by the Turkish Navy or by the Turkish commandos that were on the island and that the fact was concealed to end the crisis and not to lead the two countries into a generalized conflict.

Through Deputy Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, the Americans impose their will on both sides. “No ships, no troops, no table flags”, they announced, and so by noon on January 31, 1996, the ships, soldiers and flags had withdrawn from Imia.

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