NATO pushes for closer Turkish ties

NATO’s new Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on his first visit to Greece as head of the alliance, yesterday reiterated concerns about tensions between Greece and Turkey hindering NATO operations in Afghanistan and pressed Athens to seek «practical solutions» with Ankara to bilateral disputes. Speaking after their talks, Karamanlis said he and Rasmussen had agreed on the importance of NATO members cooperating on the basis of the alliance’s principles and international law, a clear dig at ongoing Turkish air space violations in the Aegean. «Common sense and the implementation of agreements and respect for international law are the elements needed to boost the cooperation between NATO and the EU,» Karamanlis said. The Greek premier was reacting to Rasmussen’s insistence on the need for closer ties between Greece and Turkey, highlighting the ongoing disputes between the two neighbors as a key stumbling block to the forging of a security pact between the EU and NATO as regards operations in war-torn Afghanistan. «The absence of this agreement might put our personnel on the ground at risk,» Rasmussen said after the talks. «We discussed this as it is a real concern to me; we cannot allow a lack of security because of these political issues,» said Rasmussen, who also met with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis. Before his departure for Ankara, where he is due to have talks with Turkish government officials today, the alliance chief was briefed on the situation in the Aegean as well as the Cyprus problem and ongoing talks aimed at finding a new name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of