The U.S. calls on Greece and Turkey to deescalate Aegean Sea tensions

The United States called on Turkey and Greece to de-escalate tensions over rocky, uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea claimed by both countries.

Turkish and Greek coastguard vessels have twice collided near the disputed Kardak islets, known as Imia in Greece, in the last month.

"We encourage all parties to take steps that will de-escalate the current situation. As a matter of principle, the United States supports the sovereignty of the countries in the region, including Greece and Turkey," U.S. State Department official Nicole A. Thompson said in an email to Ahval.

The dispute is one of a series of issues related to demilitarisation, delimitation and the sovereignty rights of Aegean Sea islands and islets between Turkey and Greece dating back decades. In late January 1996, the two NATO countries almost went to war over Kardak/Imia, between the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum and the Greek island of Kalymnos.

Turkey is ready to take “all necessary measures” to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots and Turkey’s ownership of the continental shelf in the eastern Aegean, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told the Greek Kathimerini newspaper in an interview last week.

Department of Defense Spokesperson Major Sheryll I. Klinkel also told Ahval that "there are currently no plans to provide U.S. naval support in the Aegean."

State Department official Thompson said, "we are aware of media reports of this incident. Turkey and Greece have long-established diplomatic channels for addressing Aegean issues."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said that Turkey would respond to drilling for natural gas in Cypriot waters and Greek attempts to take control of disputed islets in the Aegean in the same way as it has acted in two military operations in northern Syria.

“Let them not think that the search for natural gas in Cypriot waters and opportunistic initiatives relating to islets in the Aegean have slipped our attention," he said. "We will destroy their calculations just as we are destroying those who made the wrong calculations on our southern border with the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations,” he said.

Turkey’s top general has stated last week that Turkey has the capacity to keep the Aegean Sea “under control” while simultaneously conducting its ongoing military incursion into northwest Syria.