Athens seeks answers over Turkish fire allegations

Greece lodged an official complaint with Turkey on Tuesday seeking clarification over comments by former Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, who claimed in an interview over the weekend that Ankara had used secret funds to pay agents to set fire to Greek forests.

Yilmaz said on Tuesday that he had been misinterpreted and that he was referring to Greek intelligence agents starting fires in Turkey.

?I said that publishing these allegations before they were proved would be wrong for our relations with Greece,? said Yilmaz, who served as premier three times in the 1990s.

However, this did not deter Athens from submitting a demarche to the Turkish government in Ankara and to the embassy in Athens. Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas asked for Turkish authorities to look into Yilmaz?s original claims. In Greece, Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes ordered prosecutors to re-examine the evidence gathered in relation to the forest fires of 1995.

The only official reaction from Turkey was a comment from Environment and Forest Minister Veysel Eroglu, who said that the matter would have to be investigated as the Turkish government had no information that backed up Yilmaz?s claims.

Intelligence sources told Kathimerini that the Greek government and military had been informed in 1993 that Turkey?s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) was behind some of Greece?s wildfires. Greece?s National Intelligence Service (EYP) received substantial information between 1995 and 1997 that MIT had instigated forest fires on eastern Aegean islands and in Attica and Thessaloniki.

In an unpublished document distributed to its NATO and European Union partners in 1998, Greece suggested Turkey was engaging in destabilizing acts on Greek soil, one of which was starting wildfires.

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