Flight path deal hits air pocket

Right- and left-wing opposition parties were united yesterday in accusing the government of ceding ground to Turkey by agreeing on a new accord which reorganizes civil aviation routes over the Aegean. New Democracy said Athens had accepted «proposals which Turkey has for a long time been advancing, and which were rejected by [PASOK founder] Andreas Papandreou’s government, as well as by subsequent administrations.» The controversial part of the deal, signed over two weeks ago within the framework of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) after lengthy negotiations between Greek and Turkish officials, cancels two flight routes over the northeastern island of Lemnos and creates two new ones, but at a higher altitude. Critics in Athens say this will allow Turkish military aircraft to fly at will under the passenger plane routes, which was until now impossible as the civil aviation flight paths were at 4,500 and 11,000 feet. Athens says its air space extends to 10 miles and demands that Turkish military planes submit flight plans before entering the Athens Flight Information Region. Ankara only recognizes a six-mile limit (equal to Greece’s territorial waters) and refuses to submit flight plans, leading to constant friction. The government only divulged details yesterday. It said the deal had no military impact, will secure Greek interests and create 13 new international routes ahead of the 2004 Olympics. ND countered that the deal – set for implementation on Christmas Day – used the Olympics as a pretext and was weighted in Turkey’s favor. Synaspismos Left Coalition spokesman Nikos Hountis called it «a dangerous development with which Athens has agreed to allow the continuation of illegal flights by Turkish military aircraft in Athens’s FIR.»

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