Turkish military chief plays up flag incident

The head of Turkey’s military forces yesterday said Ankara might scrap a recent agreement on confidence-boosting measures to defuse military tension in the Aegean unless Greece apologizes for last week’s defacing of a Turkish flag at the Army Academy in Athens. «We are still waiting for Greece to officially apologize and find those responsible for the incident,» General Hilmi Ozkok said in a speech at Istanbul’s military academy. «[Failure to do this] may lead to the reconsideration of such [confidence-building] activities.» The flag was defaced and left in the room of visiting Turkish officers on April 12, when the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers agreed in Ankara to set up a hotline between the two countries’ air forces in a bid to reduce aerial jousts over the Aegean. The visit had coincided with increased Turkish violations of Greek air space and territorial waters, including a 26-hour standoff at the Imia islets over which the two neighbors came close to war in 1996. The Greek army described the flag incident as «regrettable.» Ozkok also ruled out any reduction in Turkey’s occupation forces on Cyprus. Meanwhile, 34 Turkish military jets violated Greek air space in the Aegean 22 times yesterday, before being chased off.

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