NEWS

Ankara blows hot, cold

The Greek and Turkish foreign ministers yesterday agreed on three confidence-building measures, but even as they discussed Athens’s complaints of violations of its air space by Turkish warplanes, Turkey’s top soldier in Ankara said that these flights in «international air space» would continue. Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is hosting a meeting of EU and Mediterranean countries at Hersonissos, near Iraklion on Crete, said that he and his Turkish partner Abdullah Gul had discussed the air space violations and decided the political directors of their ministries would examine the issue. «The measures that we are announcing are not directly military but they involve the two countries’ military,» Papandreou said. They are also separate from the military confidence-building measures being discussed within the framework of NATO, he said. «They cultivate and help the two countries’ cross-border cooperation and a general reduction in tension,» Papandreou said. The measures involve an exchange of staff officers of all three branches of the armed forces, an exchange of students from the armed forces’ academies, and the setting-up of offices for tele-medicine at a military hospital in each country. But even as the two ministers negotiated, the chairman of Turkey’s joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, was telling journalists in Ankara that Turkish warplanes would continue to enter the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) without announcing flight plans, and that Turkey recognized only six miles of Greek air space, not the 10 miles that Athens announced in 1931. «This is international air space in the Aegean. On the basis of international rules, we will use it freely, let no one have the slightest doubt,» Ozkok said. «Let us hope that Greece will not have a detrimental effect on the development of Turkish-Greek relations with such provocations,» he declared. He also issued a challenge to the Turkish government. The EuroMed meeting continues today, with EU, Arab and Israeli foreign ministers discussing peace efforts in the Middle East, economic cooperation and the fight against terrorism. On another note, Papandreou congratulated Turkey on its success at the Eurovision song contest and Cannes film festival. Gul, earlier, had commented, «We thank the Greeks and Greek Cypriots for the votes they gave us» at Eurovision.