Greek, Turkish media express relief at handling of jet crash

The Greek and Turkish press expressed relief yesterday at the way their countries contained a potential crisis caused by a midair collision between military aircraft of the two neighbors. «Crash in the air, cool on the ground,» wrote the Greek newspaper To Vima on Tuesday’s crash involving Greek and Turkish F-16 jets over the Aegean Sea. «Dogfight in the air, reason on the ground,» Turkey’s top-selling newspaper Hurriyet trumpeted, referring to hurried telephone talks between the foreign ministers and army chiefs. «Greece and Turkey were on the brink of a crisis for 30 minutes yesterday, with the two countries’ chiefs of staff literally halting the escalation of tension at the last minute,» said the Athens newspaper Eleftherotypia. Despite a significant thaw in their traditionally tense ties, NATO allies Turkey and Greece remain at odds over territorial rights in the Aegean. Turkey’s liberal newspaper Radikal headlined, «Neither side wants a crisis.» But Hurriyet called the crash the result of «pointless obstinacy» and denounced the fact that Turkey and Greece had failed to introduce a direct communication line between their national air operation centers to avoid incidents. The arrangement was agreed to last year. The two sides gave different accounts of the accident some 35 miles (55km) south of the Greek island of Rhodes, with Turkish armed forces saying it occurred in international air space and the Greek military charging that the planes were in air space under Greek supervision. «For half an hour, the Aegean Sea had become an activated bomb on countdown,» reported Eleftherotypia from Athens. Eleftheros Typos, a pro-government Greek newspaper, said «it was only a matter of time» before such an incident occurred, given the frequency of encounters between Greek and Turkish jets over the eastern Aegean. «Yesterday’s collision challenges the rapprochement efforts between Greece and Turkey,» the paper noted, while praising the government for displaying «a cool head and averting escalation.» The center-left Greek newspaper Ta Nea criticized Turkey’s «bravado,» reporting that the Turkish pilot had allegedly threatened with a firearm Greek rescuers who were the first to reach him. Editorials highlighted the bilateral progress that followed the unprecedented outpouring of solidarity between the two countries in the wake of deadly earthquakes in 1999. «We want the Aegean to turn into a sea of peace and friendship but for this we feel the moderates on two sides have to battle against hardliners,» wrote the English-language Turkish newspaper New Anatolian. «Tuesday’s crash should not be allowed to pollute our relationship.»