Athens: Turk military has to step aside

Greece yesterday responded angrily to a declaration by Turkey’s top soldier in which he said Turkish warplanes would continue to fly in air space in the Aegean which Athens says is Greek air space, saying any incident could damage Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou also stepped into the dispute between Turkey’s military and its government, saying that his interlocutor was the government. «The European Union has stressed that the role of the military in Turkey has to be that of the military in every other democracy. It is a role in which it serves the democratically elected political leadership and not the other way round. I am not replying to the military leadership directly or indirectly, because my interlocutor is the foreign minister of Turkey and we have regular contact,» Papandreou said at the end of a meeting of EU and Mediterranean countries on Crete yesterday. He was commenting on statements made by Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok on Monday in which the general said the military was unhappy with appointments being made by the Turkish government. Ozkok also repeated that Turkey recognized only 6 miles of Greek air space, not 10 miles, stressing that Turkish planes would continue flying in what he called «international air space.» Yesterday Athens recorded 11 infringements of the Athens Flight Information Region and three air space violations, leading to eight mock dogfights. Papandreou said he had discussed the issue with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, at their meeting in Crete. «We stressed that a solution must be found in the context of international law, this is an issue that has plagued us for years and it must end,» Papandreou said. «For Turkey to join the EU it must carry out some reforms, which we and other countries did.» Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou charged, «It is clear we are facing increased provocation and aggression from Turkey in the Aegean.» But he added, «It cannot be the intention of the Turkish military establishment to provoke a hot incident in the Aegean because this would cancel Turkey’s European future.»

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