NEWS

Turkey limits sky lanes

In the last few months, since early September, Ankara has used procedures regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to freeze the use of 10 air corridors in the Aegean, in what officials in Athens see as Turkey’s way of placing more issues on the table of negotiations with Greece. In the latest case, Ankara demanded in October that planes using two Greek air corridors in the Aegean file flight plans with Turkish authorities. According to reliable sources, Turkey, using the law of air transportation which demands that corridors over international waters must have the unanimous approval of all ICAO members, has managed to freeze the use of four air corridors in the northern Aegean and six in the southern Aegean and Icaria Sea region, which carried the greatest part of Greece’s international air transport and had great economic value. But the Greek government was also fazed by the publication yesterday by the Athens daily Ethnos of a Notice to Air Men (NOTAM) that Turkey’s civil aviation authorities issued on October 24. The note, the paper said, meant that Turkey wanted to control Greek flights to Rhodes and Cyprus. The NOTAM asks that flight plans be filed with the Turkish authorities for planes using the Greek air corridors G-18 and R-19. A small part of the first corridor enters the Istanbul FIR and the second touches on it a little. Foreign Ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis played down the Ethnos report yesterday, saying that the political aspect it was giving the NOTAM «creates an intense climate of fear regarding relations between Greece and Turkey,» adding that «We should not create scenarios that have a strong sense of conflict.» But what concerns the Greek side is Turkey’s selective tactic in demanding flight plans only from Greece. Turkey has raised similar issues in the past, in 1998, whereas the Greek practice, following a «gentlemen’s agreement,» is that Greeks file flight plans with Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control agency, which then notifies the Turkish authorities. Until yesterday, Greece had notified neither the ICAO nor Eurocontrol that Turkey had backed out of the agreement, despite the fact that the issue had been discussed by a committee made up of members of the ministries of defense and foreign affairs and the civil aviation authorities. Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said that the case was «routine» and was being dealt with by the Civil Aviation Service and the ICAO. His deputy minister, Lucas Apostolidis, however, spoke of «repeated provocations from the Turkish side.» Meanwhile, violations of Greek air space have been increasing. Yesterday, 10 formations of 27 Turkish warplanes entered the Athens Flight Information Region in the northern Aegean and east of Rhodes and committed 10 violations of the FIR and and six of Greece’s national air space. Air space violations increased by 30 percent last year, causing alarm at the Defense Ministry, which believes Greece and Turkey are entering a stormy period.