The pretext for the war was provided in 1644, when ships operated by the Knights of St. John in the South Aegean plundered an Ottoman vessel bearing pilgrims to Mecca. The Turks declared war, accusing the Venetians of harbouring Christian pirates on Crete. In actual fact, the true reasons for the war lay in the long-running antagonism between the two states for control of shipping routes in the Eastern Mediterranean. That aside, the incident involving the Knights made it plain to the Turks that as long as Crete was in Christian hands, the area would not be safe for Muslims. Circumstances were favourable for them, since the dire state of the Venetian economy did not permit the Serenissimi to take the necessary steps to defend Crete.