Turkey ups air space violations

Athens denounced the recent increase of intrusions by Turkish military aircraft into Greece’s air space, as another 18 Turkish planes had to be chased off by Greek fighters yesterday. The Turkish jets, one third of which were armed, entered Greek air space between the islands of Rhodes and Lemnos on 50 occasions, while eight simulated dogfights broke out during the process of interception. This follows similar incidents on Wednesday and last week, while, according to military sources in Athens, Turkish intrusions have doubled over the past two weeks. «It is self-evident that Turkey cannot look to enter the European Union if the problem of Cyprus is not solved and [Ankara’s] unilateral claims on our sovereignty in the Aegean are not lifted,» Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday. «I would like to believe that Turkey will get the message and cease its tactics of violations and provocation.» In 2002, air space violations rose over 300 percent compared to 2001, while Greek and Turkish fighters engaged in some 800 simulated dogfights, over just 54 in 2001.