NEWS

Minister to raise issue of Turkish overflights during Corfu meeting

Turkish jets have stepped up sorties over inhabited Greek islands, increasing tensions between Aegean neighbors Greece and Turkey, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said in an interview yesterday. Bakoyannis told Reuters she would raise the issue with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu when they meet for the first time at an informal meeting of OSCE foreign ministers on the island of Corfu this weekend. «The constant overflights by Turkish jets over inhabited Greek islands do not help improve the atmosphere between the two countries and I hope discussions with Mr Davutoglu will help, to begin with, to change this atmosphere,» said Bakoyanni. «These overflights over inhabited islands have increased in the last few months, and have caused concern in Greece and, I believe, among our EU partners,» Bakoyannis said. «It’s very important to have some progress and an improvement in the climate.» Middle East expert Davutoglu became Turkey’s foreign minister in a government reshuffle early last month. Greece supports Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, provided it resolves disputes and helps reunite Cyprus, divided since Turkey invaded the island in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. EU member Cyprus remains a main stumbling block for Ankara’s EU accession hopes and Bakoyannis said Ankara must realize how important the Cyprus issue is for its own future. «I hope Ankara realizes that this is a very important issue for Turkey itself – resolving the Cyprus issue and proving to the international community that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, Christians and Muslims, can live together harmoniously within the EU,» she said. Talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots resumed in September 2008 after a four-year lull but with few apparent concrete results. «We all want immediate and faster results,» Bakoyannis said. I see there is progress in the talks. No doubt we are not at the end of the negotiations, far from it.» (Reuters)