The dawn of February 1st 1996 was the end of the Imia crisis that unfortunately created unsubstantial ground for a challenge on the Greece’s claim on the Dodecanese islands and other parts of the Aegean.

Whatever could go wrong that night, didn’t hesitate to do so: poor political administration, inefficient coordination due to factional interests mainly from the political side, equipment inadequacy.

Yet, no matter how frustrating the loss was, it was also a waking call for the Greek political scene to show a little more faith in the armed forces that despite their better reading of the situation and their proposals, were not heard.

The Crisis Timeline

On December 25, 1995 the Turkish cargo vessel “Figen Akat” ran aground on one of the Imia rocky islets. Although the accident occurred within Greek territorial waters the captain of the “Figen Akat” refused assistance from the competent Greek authorities claiming that he was within Turkish territorial waters. Despite assurances to the contrary, the captain sought assistance from the Turkish authorities. Finally, in agreement with the Turkish company that owned the vessel, the “Figen Akat” was towed to the Turkish port of Gulluk by a Greek tug boat.

Mia Islets. In the foreground the western Imia islet where the SAT team landed

On December 29, 1995, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed to the Greek Embassy in Ankara a Note Verbal, asserting, for the first time in more than half a century, that Imia constitutes part of the Turkish territory, registered in the land registry of the Turkish province of Mugla. Greece reacted and on January 10, 1996 it addressed a Note Verbal to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. By that Note Greece rejected the Turkish claims and underlined that Imia is Greek territory by virtue of cession from Italy, to which it belonged in accordance with the 1932 Italo-Turkish Agreement and the subsequent Proces Verbal.

While legal and diplomatic staffs in both Athens and Ankara started to dig the archives and to develop more elaborate arguments, the incident escalated to a crisis. On January 25, 1996, the Mayor of Kalymnos together with three other Greek citizens raised a Greek flag on the larger of the Imia islets. On January 27, 1996, Turkish journalists from the Turkish daily Hurriyet landed on this same islet, took down the Greek flag that was posted there and raised the Turkish flag. Although the Turkish Government did not officially endorse the action of the Turkish journalists, the Turkish Prime Minister at that time, Ms Tansu Ciller, insisted a few days later: “We can’t let a foreign flag fly on Turkish soil. The flag will come down.”