New tension between Greece and Turkey over flag claim

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim claimed early Monday morning that the Turkish Coast Guard took down a Greek flag from an Aegean islet in a ‘disputed area’ that was reportedly raised by three Greeks on a speedboat on Friday.

However, Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that there was no evidence of any “violation of Greek territory” and blasted the statement by Yildirim as “totally provocative and reprehensible,” adding, “Greece will never accept the theory of ‘gray zones’ or any questioning of its territorial sovereignty.”

“I think Mr Yildirim should be more careful,” Tzanakopoulos said. “We call on Turkey to return to a path of respect for international law,” he said, adding that Turkish authorities should “take the initiative to de-escalate the tension.”

Tzanakopoulos said nonetheless that “we continue to investigate the matter in a calm and very serious fashion.”

Alternate Defense Minister Fotis Kouvelis said on Tuesday that Turkey made up the story about its coast guard taking down a Greek flag on an islet in the southeastern Aegean after a Turkish helicopter was chased off from the area of Ro.“There was no incident of the Turkish coast guard or special forces taking down the flag. The removal of the flag was not the result of any such action,” he told Thema radio.

One of three young men who took the initiative to place Greek flags on five islets around Fournoi in the southeast Aegean said that the move was intended to pay tribute to Hellenic Air Force Captain Georgios Baltadoros, who was killed last week when his jet went down off Skyros.

“We raised the flags on the islet in honor of Baltadoros,” Haralambos Tsagalas told Antenna TV on Tuesday. “The decision was sudden. We woke up, had our coffee and said that it needed it to be done. We threw a wreath in the sea and then went to the [five] islets. We started at 11 a.m. and finished at 4 in the afternoon.”

Tsagalas said that he and his friends inspected the flags on Saturday to make sure they had not been brought down by the wind and that “all five were there.”

“We have no political motives; we did this for flag and country,” he added.

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