NEWS

Aegean military hotline

As Greek and Turkish fighter pilots jousted over the Aegean, the countries’ foreign ministers agreed in Ankara yesterday to set up a hotline between air force command centers as part of a series of bilateral confidence-boosting measures – which include military sports encounters. No time schedule was given for implementing the measures, which aim to reduce military tension in the Aegean. Despite the official thaw in bilateral relations, simulated dogfights between military aircraft are an almost daily event. Apart from the hotline between the Larissa and Eskisehir air bases, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, agreed to create joint units to handle natural disasters, to organize Greek lessons for Turkish officers and vice versa, and to stage sports competitions between the two countries’ military forces. «We believe that our improving relations should also be reflected in military activities,» Molyviatis said. Meanwhile, 34 Turkish military aircraft violated Greek air space on nine occasions in the northern Aegean. In one instance, two formations of six Turkish jets entered a navy firing range off Andros, briefly interrupting an exercise with live fire that was under way. And off the Imia islets in the eastern Aegean, over which Greece and Turkey came to the brink of war in 1996, a Turkish coast guard patrol boat entered Greek territorial waters and remained in the area for 12 hours, shadowed by a Greek naval vessel. It was relieved by a second patrol boat in the evening.