NEWS

Greece says no to Turkish role in Euroforce

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday refused to accept an accord, brokered by the United States and the United Kingdom on December 2, providing Turkey with a virtual veto concerning the deployment of the fledgling Euroforce. Attempts by Greek and other EU officials to bridge the gap during the first day of the EU summit, at the Brussels suburb of Laeken, failed despite the efforts of the Belgian presidency. Greece’s stance will not prevent the EU leaders from announcing the creation and operational deployment of the 60,000-strong Euroforce, but will leave open the issue of relations with NATO. It is widely understood that a lack of an agreement over the new force’s relations with NATO would deprive it of the use of the Atlantic alliance’s planning resources and render it ineffective. When it becomes fully operational, in 2003, the force will be involved in humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping and peacemaking. Its capabilities for rapid deployment and efficient action on the ground would be severely hampered without NATO help. The US-UK accord with Turkey granted Greece’s neighbor a virtual veto on Euroforce operations in areas of strategic importance to Turkey. These include the Aegean, where Turkey disputes Greek sovereignty over a number of islands, and Cyprus, where Turkey has been keeping an occupation force in the northern third of the island since 1974, in defiance of a number of United Nations resolutions. Greece considers the accord to be detrimental, not only to its national interests but to those of the EU in general, giving non-EU members too large a say in its operations. Greece’s disagreement also delayed the announcement of the European force’s operationalization, something which will probably be achieved during today’s second and final day of the summit. But without a resolution of this point, the declaration will be merely symbolic. Simitis has been egged on both by deputies within his party and by all opposition parties to adopt a hard line on the issue. His approach would be to let negotiations drag out longer, striving for an agreement under the Spanish presidency during the first half of 2002, rather than resorting to an outright veto that would strain Greece’s relations with its allies. c Meanwhile, the 15 EU leaders agreed to deploy a force of between 3,000 and 4,000 soldiers to Afghanistan as part of an international peacekeeping force. The force will be deployed by December 22. All 15 countries will sent contingents. The force is not there to make war, it is there to ensure stability, said Javier Solana, EU’s foreign and security policy chief.