Turkish authorities have seized a ship carrying 68 tons of arms and ammunition which, they claim, was destined for the Greek-controlled section of Cyprus.
Turkish authorities have seized a ship carrying 68 tons of arms and ammunition which, they claim, was destined for the Greek-controlled section of Cyprus. The cargo has been unloaded in Istanbul under heavy security by troops replacing the regular dock workers.
Relation between Greece and Turkey have been poor since 1974 when Turkish forces invaded Cyprus and set up a separate Turkish Cypriot government on the island. The next meeting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities will take place after the United Nations Security Council debate next week on extending the U.N. peacekeeping mandate on the island.
SYNOPSIS: The ship was named as the "Vasoula", but Turkish customs officials claimed the same ship had passed through the Bosphorus six weeks ago under a different name. Altogether, 1,500 boxes of arms and ammunition were taken off the ship by Turkish military forces. It was arrested in the Bosphorus on Friday (3 June) while allegedly taking the arms from a Bulgarian port to Cyprus.
Greek Cypriot officials however have denied any knowledge of the ship, saying it was not registered under their authority. Turkey also claimed some of the arms were destined for Turkish underground organisations. Among officials who inspected the seized goods was the Governor of Istanbul, Namik Kemal Senturk. The haul included sophisticated rockets and rocket launchers said to be capable of demolishing a 50-metre (yard)-tall building. Altogether 16,000 rockets, each 50 centimetres (20 inches) long, were seized.
The Turks named the captain of the ship as Dimitrios Mastikas. They said five crew members, one of Turkish origin and the rest Greek, had been arrested along with Captain Mastikas. The seizure came on the same day that Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators held one of their longest sessions in their attempt to settle inter-communal differences on the divided island.