NATO, Turkey warned

Greece's chief of staff issued a stern warning to Ankara and NATO yesterday after the military alliance canceled a planned exercise in the northeastern Aegean following objections by Turkey which suggested the area should be classified as a demilitarized zone. Admiral Panayiotis Hinofotis told Kathimerini that Greece had lodged official complaints at various levels and called on NATO to rectify the situation for the sake of «its trustworthiness and cohesion.» Athens is angry that Lt Gen Maurice McFann, the commander of Allied Air Component Command Headquarters in southern Europe, canceled the NATO exercise, due to take place near the Greek island of Aghios Efstratios, after complaints from Turkey. «I emphasize that NATO does not have authority over issues which are controlled by international law, treaties and agreements,» said Hinofotis. Ankara has previously asked for areas around eastern Aegean islands to be classed as demilitarized but this is the first time a request has been made about Aghios Efstratios. The admiral said that the possibility of classifying Aghios Efstratios as being in a demilitarized zone is not up for discussion. «Matters of national sovereignty cannot be part of a discussion with any counterpart of mine in or out of NATO or with any collective body of NATO,» said the chief of staff. Hinofotis accepted that NATO experiences some «local slip-ups» from time to time but called on the alliance to rectify the situation. «I firmly believe that NATO, in the interests of firstly its trustworthiness and secondly its cohesion, must take corrective action as soon as possible,» said the admiral. He also warned that Turkey's behavior could damage the good climate between Athens and Ankara. «The climate of dialogue, especially the psychological undercurrent, is certainly affected in these situations,» Hinofotis said. «The effort to create a climate of trust is being severely tested by these sorts of events.»