Former Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz has claimed he was misinterpreted in an interview in which he suggested that Turkish agents had set fire to Greek forests in the 1990s.
His denial of the claims, however, was not enough to prevent Greek judicial authorities from reopening their investigation into the causes of wildfires in 1995.
“The article is totally distorted,» Yilmaz told reporters at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport before flying to the United States on Tuesday, according to Anadolu Agency.
He suggested that what he meant in the interview was that there was evidence Greek intelligence agents had started fires in Turkey in the 1990s.
“I said that publishing these allegations before they were proved would be wrong for our relations with Greece, and therefore they should be evaluated within the scope of the state,» Yilmaz, who served as premier three times in the 1990s, was quoted as saying.
“Unfortunately, the issue was totally distorted for sensation purposes,» he added.
Yilmaz?s comments – part of an interview published in the Turkish daily newspaper Birgun over the weekend – were the first admission by an official source that Ankara was funding subversive activities in Greece.
According to Yilmaz?s interview, the Turkish secret service set fire to Greek forests during the leadership of his archrival Tansu Ciller, from 1995 to 1998. During that period major forest fires caused huge damage on the islands of the eastern Aegean and in Macedonia.
?The Turks have to respond without delay about a criminal act against another country,? honorary Greek ambassador Christos Zacharakis told Skai TV. ?This was a act of blind hate and revenge that is not alien to the Turkish mentality.?
Reacting to Yilmaz?s comments, Greek Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes ordered all the country?s prosecutors to re-examine the evidence that had been gathered in relation to the forest fires of 1995.