Diplomats seeking to overcome pilot’s death

An air force pilot who was killed on May 23 in a collision with a Turkish jet over the Aegean was buried with full honors in Crete yesterday as diplomats sought ways to bring relations between the two countries back on an even keel. President Karolos Papoulias, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and an array of ministers, politicians and military chiefs attended the funeral of Captain Costas Iliakis in Hania. They were joined by thousands of locals. «We hope Costas Iliakis is the final victim in the struggle to defend the Aegean,» said Hania Mayor Kyriakos Virvidakis. «His untimely death will have had an impact when a solution is found so something like this does not happen again,» said the late pilot’s brother. Iliakis was killed when his F-16 collided with a Turkish fighter jet that he was shadowing after it entered Greek air space without submitting a flight plan. The collision appears to have been an accident. Military sources said that 16 Turkish jets violated national air space yesterday and in two cases Greek planes were involved in mock dogfights with them. Meanwhile, attention is now shifting to the meeting between Bakoyannis and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul that is due to take place in Istanbul on June 9. Foreign Ministry sources said Bakoyannis will make it clear that Athens will not turn a blind eye to Turkish provocation, especially as the European Union is due to resume on June 12 its assessment of Ankara’s membership candidacy. Turkey was keen to appear conciliatory yesterday. «Turkey wants peace, friendship and stability with Greece,» said foreign ministry spokesman Namik Tan.

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