NEWS

Athens fears EU-Turkey defense deal

Diplomatic sources in Athens stressed yesterday that Greece would be forced to veto any decision at the EU summit on December 14 and 15 which proposed that the nascent European defense force not include Cyprus and the Aegean in its area of operations. This followed reports from Ankara that the British Foreign Office’s political director Peter Ricketts had assured Ankara that the force, due to be fully operational by mid-2003, would not be used in crises involving Cyprus or the Aegean Sea. Ricketts’s assurances appear to have been made in talks in Ankara between Turkish, British and American officials which did not lead to an agreement, although, as Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem noted, progress was made on European defense and Turkey’s participation in the force. But Turkey did not win the right to participate in any EU military operation which did not involve NATO facilities. If the statements attributed to Ricketts are correct, then it appears that Ankara’s other demand, that Cyprus and the Aegean be left out of the area of operations, appears to have been met, despite the fact that Greece is a member of the EU and Cyrus will become one in the next wave of enlargement.