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Greek isle `relocated` to Turkey

With around 280 permanent residents, Greece`s tiny, unassuming northeastern Aegean island of Agios Efstratios may have a larger population than…

With around 280 permanent residents, Greece`s tiny, unassuming northeastern Aegean island of Agios Efstratios may have a larger population than  the equally isolated Kastellorizo, in the Dodecanese, but a significant number of Greeks have trouble finding it on the map.
Like Kastellorizo, Agios Efstratios  is situated relatively close to Turkey  but has attracted sparse publicity when compared to its southern cousin, partly due to the northeastern isle`s lack of glamour and also because it “exported” much fewer residents seeking a better life in the post-war era.
The Kastellorizo diaspora is sizeable and fiercely patriotic, and the island is starting to attract tourists. Agios Efstratios, on the other hand, is known more for its history as a place to where political prisoners – among them renowned poet Yiannis Ritsos – were exiled, particularly after the Greek civil war. Due to their positioning, both islands – arguably – fall under the unenviable categorisation of what Greek shipping lines refer to as “unprofitable routes”.
And although Agios Efstratios, which lies 18 nautical miles south of Limnos, is located further away from Turkey than Kastellorizo – which is just 2.5km from the neighbouring country`s southern coast – it seems that some companies and international bodies are even confused as to which nation has sovereignty over Agios Efstratios. This is despite the fact that there has been no questioning of its sovereignty since independence from Turkish occupation – unlike the 1996 dispute between Turkey and Greece over the Imia rock islets in the Dodecanese, when war was narrowly averted following US intervention.
Multimap. Com (www. multimap. com), which describes itself as “the UK`s leading interactive mapping service on the web” and claims to be “one of the top 10 most visited websites” in Britain, lists Agios Efstratios as being Turkish while its northeastern neighbour Mytilini, Greece`s third largest island, is clearly shown as Greek though, again, it is much closer to Turkey.
Agios Efstratios` community chairman Haralambos Makris said that such a “mistake occurs every so often” but that he considers the listing “suspicious” and resulting from “intentional ignorance”.
“Every once in a while various isolated islands, not just Agios Efstratios, are shown as being Turkish -even Gavdos, south of Crete. It has become ridiculous,” he said.
Implying that Turkey and its international supporters are behind the “error”, Makris said: “If Turkey wishes to achieve its aim of becoming a member of the European Union then it must abide by international laws and respect the laws and rights between countries.”
Although Greeks popularly believe the US is the main Western power backing Turkey – due to its strategic positioning in the Aegean, Makris said the support spreads much further – to fellow Nato member Britain and others – due to the “globalisation of interests”.
“It reflects the Turkish notion of bargaining. By simply stating and restating something, they hope something will come of it. We have to be careful though,” he noted.
“How is it possible for a serious company to fail to recognise international borders?”
In an e-mailed response, Multimap. com`s director Audrey Mandela stated the firm, which has been operating for three years, was “very concerned to learn of this mistake” and that it does not create the data which supports the maps shown on the website. Multimap. com purchases data from a number of companies which keep up-to-date records of geographical data. Some data suppliers are specific to a country while others provide data for all of Europe and the world.
Mandela inquired with Europa Technologies, which supplies world mapping data to Multimap, and said that the latter company`s managing director, Warren Vick, checked his source materials and found the mistake originates from the US Defence Mapping Agency.
“We use a number of sources… including the US government public data, the United Nations, state and commercial mapping agencies and border research units of academic institutions. In this case, the error was from a US government source and was not identified earlier,” Vick wrote.
“We check [data] within reference to known political flashpoints around the world. Where there is dispute, we take the most neutral or widely accepted interpretation. Our interpretation was not to blame in this case but we do take responsibility for passing on the error.
“The error was a simple mistake where source information was accepted in good faith and not checked. Europa Technologies has no political agenda on any dispute in any part of the world.”

Mandela noted that both firms are moving quickly to correct the mistake though two separate searches carried out on Saturday listed Agios Efstratios as being Greek in one instance and Turkish in the other.
Makris said he did not intend taking the matter further but pointed out it was a foreign affairs matter. He said the Greek foreign ministry could possibly raise the issue with its British counterpart which may then advise the company in question.
Numerous requests for a response from the Greek foreign ministry were not met.

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