Papoulias points at Turkish army

President Karolos Papoulias repeated yesterday his accusation against Turkey that it is a «fractious neighbor,» as he used his presence at Epiphany celebrations on the tiny island of Agathonisi to accuse the neighboring country’s army of being mainly responsible for stirring up trouble with Greece. «Unfortunately, I have to repeat what I’ve said in the past: At the root of the problems in Greek-Turkish relations is the decisive role that the Turkish army plays in the politics of the neighboring country,» said Papoulias during a speech on the Dodecanese island. Relations between the two countries became strained on New Year’s Eve when Turkish air defense control communicated with the pilots of Greek helicopters flying over Agathonisi and asked them to leave the area because they were violating Turkey’s national air space. This led to Greece filing an official complaint with Ankara and informing the European Union and NATO about the matter. Papoulias said that although Turkey «seeks to undertake broader peace-building initiatives, it also engages in a series of incomprehensible and irrational provocations, such as the systematic flight of its warplanes over Greek islands, such as Agathonisi.» Greece and Turkey have a longstanding territorial dispute over the Aegean. Turkey insists Greek air space extends only 10 kilometers offshore, not 16 kilometers as Greece maintains. «Like all Greeks, the Aegean islanders want a peaceful future with our neighbors but this future must be based on respect for international law,» said Papoulias. The president underlined that Greece has to be prepared to face any threat. In his speech yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis chose to focus on the difficulties faced by Greece as a result of the global economic crisis. He also called on all Greeks to condemn «acts of violence» following the shooting of a police officer on Monday.

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