Greece coastguard fires on ‘suspicious’ Turkish cargo ship

Greek coastguard ships opened fire on a cargo vessel sailing in international waters in the Aegean Sea, escalating tensions with Turkey that have mounted in recent weeks.

There were no casualties in the shooting 11 nautical miles (20km) southwest of the Turkish island of Bozcaada on Saturday, a Turkish coastguard statement said.

After “harassment fire” from two Greek vessels, two Turkish coastguard ships went to the area and the Greek boats left, it added.

The Greek coastguard confirmed it fired “warning shots” at a ship “moving suspiciously” in Greek territorial waters off the island of Lesbos.

The captain of the cargo ship refused to allow an inspection and was later escorted to nearby Turkish waters, said Greek coastguard officials, noting they informed maritime authorities in Turkey about the incident.

The area is known for many ships bringing migrants from Turkey to the European Union countries of Greece and Italy. The Greek coastguard says it regularly checks ships behaving suspiciously in the Aegean.

Embroiled in disputes

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

Ankara has accused Athens of “occupying” some Aegean islands and harassing Turkish jets with Russian-made S-300 defence systems stationed there. Athens denies the claims.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Greece it would pay a “heavy price” if it continues to harass Turkish fighter jets over the Aegean and hinted at military action.

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

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