PASOK hits minister of defense hard

A row over some remarks concerning the possibility of shrinking Greek air space that Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos made to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet last week escalated yesterday, with the opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) calling on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to declare whether Spiliotopoulos’s statement indicates a change in longstanding policy and the minister counterattacking. Spiliotopoulos’s initial reaction to the publication of the interview was to accuse Hurriyet of distorting his views. In response, the paper published the full transcript, in English. In it, Spiliotopoulos talks about the discrepancy between Greece’s territorial waters, which extends for 6 nautical miles, and air space, which extends for 10 miles from the Greek coast. Prompted by the interviewer, who asks whether this could change, he replies: «We can go to 9 (miles), to 6. We can do many things.» PASOK spokesman Spyros Vouyias said yesterday that, while in government, his party «never sold out sovereign rights» and added that the present government was creating a «dangerous situation of concessions on fixed Greek positions.» «I wonder whether Mr Spiliotopoulos can continue in his present position,» said PASOK MP Theodoros Pangalos. Another Socialist MP, Andreas Loverdos, asked for a meeting of Parliament’s National Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee so that the government can brief MPs on the NATO summit in Istanbul. The defense minister continued to deny yesterday that he made the remarks. He chided «PASOK and its leader George Papandreou (who) rushed to adopt a Turkish publication uncritically» and said that PASOK, responsible for what he called several policy missteps, was not in a position to criticize him. In reply, PASOK attacked Spiliotopoulos for his «unfair and insulting remarks» and added that Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said yesterday that «from the moment Turkey’s EU entry process is initiated, then the border relations between Greece and Turkey change.» Stylianidis said the remarks were taken out of context.