Greek PM calls on Turkey to stop violations

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday sought to highlight Greece?s frustration with Turkey?s ongoing transgressions in the Aegean by opening a speech before an audience of diplomats in eastern Turkey by condemning the tendency of Turkish F16s to fly over inhabited Greek islands in an apparent show of force.

?These activities will not lead to a change in the status quo in the Aegean, I assure you,? Papandreou told a conference in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, following talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. ?Such activities raise doubts among Greeks about whether Turkey is ready for a new era of bilateral relations,? the Greek premier added. Papandreou called on Ankara to follow up rhetoric promising rapprochement with actions.

?If Turkey means it when it says it wants peace, that it wants zero problems with its neighbors, then this has to stop,? Papandreou said, referring to the overflights.

The Greek premier stressed that failing to resolve the outstanding territorial dispute was ?a dangerous luxury? and reiterated an earlier proposal that the two countries appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague if they fail to settle an ongoing disagreement about the delineation of the continental shelf.

Erdogan did not respond directly to Papandreou?s charges. Instead he focused on sending out a positive message, saying that Athens and Ankara were committed to turning the Aegean into ?a sea of peace.?

Turkish media too focused on the more upbeat comments made by Papandreou. ?We have decided to leave aside the prejudices of the past and take bolder steps,? Turkey?s state-run Anatolia news agency quoted the Greek premier as saying. ?We want to tear down the wall of prejudice. We must forget the rivalry of the past.?

The spike in tensions in the Aegean and the issue of flagging peace talks on the divided island of Cyprus were broached by Papandreou during talks with Erdogan, along with the hot topic of illegal immigration. But diplomatic sources told Kathimerini yesterday that they did not believe the talks would yield any concrete solutions. One source said, ?In view of the fact that both prime ministers have given orders for an intensification of exploratory talks… transgressions by Turkish warships and fighter jets are essentially a show of force by the Turkish side and Athens must make it clear that it will no longer tolerate such tactics.?