Hague option for Aegean

Greece and Turkey should take their dispute over air space to the International Court of Justice at The Hague because diplomacy between the two countries has failed, former Greek president Costis Stephanopoulos wrote in an article for Sunday’s Kathimerini. «Until now, there have been 33 meetings, if I am not mistaken, between the general secretaries of the two foreign ministries without any result,» said Stephanopoulos. «Neither of the two countries will back down because they have convinced their people of the correctness of their stance.» Stephanopoulos, who was replaced by Karolos Papoulias last March, expressed his opinion after a collision between Greek and Turkish jets over the Aegean last Tuesday. The Greek pilot is still missing, and presumed dead, but the Turkish pilot ejected safely. The former president said that Turkey had not changed its stance toward Greece, despite Athens being an enthusiastic supporter of Ankara’s bid to join the European Union. Stephanopoulos added that the accession process had not had any positive impact so far on Turkey’s behavior. «If my assessment is correct, it leads to only one conclusion. I mean recourse to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.» Greece says its national air space extends 10 miles but Turkey argues that it should only reach 6 miles, which is the same distance as Greece’s territorial waters. Athens has previously suggested taking the matter to the United Nations court. Stephanopoulos said Greece should enlist the support of EU and non-European countries to pressure Ankara. «If we do not seek a solution through the International Court, all the outstanding issues will remain outstanding with the expected repercussions and the danger of a hostile incident,» Stephanopoulos concluded. Meanwhile, a poll for Sunday’s Ethnos newspaper indicated that 64 percent of Greeks want the government to «block» Ankara’s EU accession process rather than pursue closer relations with Turkey.