Caution opposite Turkey

Greek relations with Turkey have been severely aggravated by the neighboring country’s domestic crisis, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told Parliament yesterday but she warned against Athens abandoning established policies in a knee-jerk reaction. «This is a difficult situation because the reality we are faced with is completely different to that of two years ago as tensions have escalated a lot in Turkey alongside many changes on an international level,» Bakoyannis said in response to criticism from former Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos. The minister also called for caution when considering shifts in Greece’s most strategic decisions, such as its support of Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. «Strategic policies – especially those which have the majority of political support – should not be rashly called into question,» she said. As for the possibility of Athens taking its grievances with Turkey to the International Court of Justice in The Hague – which has been the subject of intense debate since it was proposed by former president Costis Stephanopoulos – Bakoyannis stressed that careful preparation was crucial if Greece was to persuade Turkey to sign a joint application to the court. Meanwhile, the National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) ruled out the possibility of demilitarizing the islands of the eastern Aegean, even if Greece and Turkey decide to make a joint appeal to The Hague. A statement issued by GEETHA said such a move would «guarantee» Turkey’s occupation of the islands and a possible shift in its claims eastward toward the Greek mainland. Bakoyannis also met with Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis yesterday to discuss the best approach for her scheduled visit to Ankara next week. The ministers discussed «trust-building» measures between Greece and Turkey, including the operation of a telephone hotline between the two countries’ air force headquarters. In a related development yesterday, NATO heralded the creation of a system to monitor sea traffic in the Mediterranean, which would oblige all vessels to announce their routes in the same way as aircraft submit flight plans. The Rex Plan – the chief aim of which is to curb threats at sea and the activities of criminal networks using sea routes – will most likely have its headquarters in Naples.

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