PM: Ankara must adhere to EU rules

Athens yesterday kept up its criticism of the behavior of Turkish warplanes in the Aegean, with Prime Minister Costas Simitis warning Ankara that it had to conform to EU principles if it wanted to join the Union. The Turkish military denied the charge that two of its warplanes had passed close to an Olympic Airways airliner on Monday, claiming that Greece was making excuses to complain to the EU. The verbal salvos followed weeks of tension in the Aegean, with Athens charging that Turkish warplanes are continually violating its air space and ignoring regulations in the Athens FIR. «If they want to become members of the EU they must keep in mind that there are principles of International Law and all countries must adhere to them,» Simitis said while on a visit to The Hague as leader of the country holding the EU presidency. «If you do not go by the rules there is always the risk of a dangerous situation arising, which we must avoid,» Simitis added. Foreign Minister George Papandreou raised the issue with the EU’s commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, who keeps an eye on countries that want to join the EU. The two also discussed Cyprus, the Balkans and the agenda of next week’s EU summit. Turkey’s military yesterday denied that two of its F-16s had harassed an Olympic Boeing 717 flying from Athens to Istanbul. The plane took evasive action when the proximity of the Turkish planes triggered its collision-avoidance system. «This news is totally false and a provocation. Flying 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) away from a civilian plane is neither a violation nor harassment,» Turkey’s General Staff said in a statement. «The fact that Greek officials are constantly accusing Turkey even though all international rules, agreements and NATO regulations justify Turkey’s position, leaves the impression that the Aegean disputes will be brought to the EU agenda,» it said. Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou commented that any policy aimed at marginalizing Turkey «in the international community and the EU would increase its aggressive instincts further and make it a more dangerous neighbor than it is today.»

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