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OPINION | EDITORIAL: All it takes is a match

September 14, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

The global stage didn't need another powder keg packed to the brim and waiting for a match. But it may have one, at the very spot where east meets west.

Long-standing tensions were escalated over the weekend between historic regional rivals Greece and Turkey after the Greek coast guard fired on a cargo ship in the Aegean Sea not far off the Turkish coast.

The ship taking the Greek fire was flying the flag of the east African island nation of Comoros. It was operating in international waters about 13 miles southwest of Bozcaada, a tourism-centered island just off the mainland.

The shots were deemed "harassment fire" by the Turks, who deployed their own coast guard in response after the Greeks had withdrawn. No one was hurt or killed, but the incident represents a step closer to what could evolve into armed conflict.

The Aegean Sea, which separates Europe from Asia, represents a beehive of history, a smorgasbord of cultural, political and military conflict. And conflict is native to this spot on the globe, where cultures and religions intersect--east-west, Christian-Muslim, European- Asian. These ingredients can marinate into a delicious dish; just as often, they mesh more like oil and water.

And though the region has been relatively quiet by historical standards, Greece and Turkey have been embroiled in minor disputes for decades, mostly centered around the island-filled waters of the Aegean and alleged airspace violations.

Turkey accuses Greece of maintaining a military presence on islands close to the Turkish coast, in violation of international treaty, and of locking on to Turkish fighter jets during NATO training exercises over the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece says it is maintaining defense of its eastern islands, including tourism spots like Rhodes and Kos, which are much closer to the Turkish mainland than that of Greece, according to the AP.

Adding an element of intrigue to this latest incident is the cargo ship in question, the Anatolian. The Associated Press reports the ship was previously named the Mavi Marmara.

In 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, then a passenger ship, as it attempted to break a blockade of Gaza. Nine Turkish activists were killed, the AP says. The incident led to strained diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey.

Perhaps adding another pinch of salty intrigue is the Anatolian's last recorded location prior to this latest incident: Mogadishu.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias didn't exactly snuff out potential embers when he said recently that Turkey's behavior risks "a situation similar to that currently unfolding in some other part of our continent."

He wasn't talking about the EU's beef with the UK over its green-energy subsidy plans.

All it takes is a match. And the air over the Aegean is getting drier by the day.

Print Headline: All it takes is a match


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