Tensions between Greece and Turkey

Anyone who remembers their ancient history classes knows -- well ok, that's hardly anyone, so here's a refresher. Greece and Turkey are two countries at the northeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Their countries have been the sites of numerous conflicts over the past three thousand years. The Aegean Sea separates them -- but not by much.

Greeks and Turks have fought several wars since 1453, when the Turks overtook the Byzantine empire's capital of Constantinople, ending Greece's control of Asia Minor.

Although the two countries are not likely to get into another shooting war anytime soon, tensions between the two are still high and the possibility is always there.

Territorial waters

On February 1, 1996, outgoing Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, threatened to declare war if Greece attempts to extend its territorial waters beyond the existing six. "If the territorial waters are taken to twelve miles -- I will speak clearly -- this is a cause for war," Ciller said.

Ciller's bluster was partly an attempt to bolster her political standing in Turkey, where her True Path Party came in second in January 1996 to the Islamists. But Greek and Turkish soldiers did face a tense stand-off on some disputed islands before withdrawing.

"In our history lives can be sacrificed, but not land," Ciller said.


The island of Cyprus is an independent nation divided into ethnic Greek and Turkish areas. It is a perennial source of dispute between the two countries. (Apologies I don't have more information here yet.)

Sources: Feb. 1, 1996, Reuter Information Service article, "Turkey's Ciller warns Greece about war over sea."