NEWS

Government admits to Turkish deal

Prime Minster Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart made a verbal agreement in 2003, when they were both opposition leaders in their countries, to reduce defense spending when they came to power, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos revealed yesterday. Roussopoulos said Karamanlis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan had reached the agreement during a meeting in Ankara last January. Erdogan, then a mere leader of the Justice and Development Party, did not become Turkish prime minister until March 2003. «There was an understanding to reduce weapons expenditure. Each country has reduced weapons spending by amounts it deemed appropriate,» said Roussopoulos. He added the cuts totaled several million US dollars but did not give specific details. Karamanlis referred to an agreement with Turkey to cut defense budgets during his speech in Thessaloniki on Saturday but confusion arose when Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos appeared to deny knowledge of the deal when asked about it on television. «I have never signed any agreement. The question should be referred to the prime minister,» he said on Monday night. The discrepancy prompted an immediate reaction from the opposition PASOK party, which described it as a «major political issue.» Roussopoulos sought to clarify by suggesting the phrasing of the question had caused the confusion. «He (Spiliotopoulos) was asked about a written agreement and that’s what he answered,» said Roussopoulos. «Only PASOK spoke about a written text; the government has never made reference to such a thing,» he added. He also said Spiliotopoulos met with his opposite number, Vecdi Gonul, at a NATO summit in Istanbul last June, after which both sides made announcements about defense cuts. Roussopoulos claimed there was no need for a formal agreement. «A totally different climate has developed between Greece and Turkey since New Democracy came to power. When there is a result, in practice, and this result is tangible and known, then to ask whether the agreement is written or verbal is secondary,» said the government spokesman.