NEWS

Athens protests over warships

The Foreign Ministry yesterday sent Ankara a written complaint detailing 11 instances of provocative transits through Greek waters by Turkish warships as Greek diplomats played down calls by a Turkish government official for both countries to scale back their arms procurements. The memorandum sent to Ankara yesterday was accompanied by 11 maps showing the routes taken by Turkish warships crossing the Aegean in recent months. According to diplomats, the Turkish warships have exploited the right of foreign ships to «innocent passage» through the territorial waters of another country in a series of legal but ostensibly aimless trips. The latest such transit occurred last Wednesday when a Turkish corvette participating in an international exercise in the Aegean entered Greek national waters off the islands of Kea and Kythnos. Meanwhile, Athens played down comments by Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s chief negotiator with the European Union, suggesting that Greece and Turkey both scale back their arms procurements. On Monday, the International Herald Tribune quoted Bagis as saying: «It’s time to cut military expenditure throughout the world, but especially between Turkey and Greece. Neither Greece nor Turkey needs neither German nor French submarines.» The Greek Foreign Ministry did not release an official statement in response to Bagis’s comments, made last week during an interview in Brussels. But diplomats told Kathimerini that they believed the Turkish official’s comments were part of a public relations exercise aimed at improving Turkey’s image opposite the European Union, with whom it has been engaged in accession talks, which are flagging. One source at the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens told Kathimerini that Bagis had raised the issue of procurements three times recently. «All government officials in Turkey, including Mr Bagis, are aware that Greece is bothered by the constant harassment, overflights and transits by Turkish warships,» the source said. «These activities constitute threats against our country against which we cannot but maintain readiness on all levels, including that of procurements,» the same source added. Apart from the provocations by the Turkish warships, Greek officials have also complained about a series of radar warnings sent by Turkish authorities to Greek and international aircraft participating in anti-immigration patrols in the eastern Aegean organized by Frontex, the European Union’s border-monitoring agency.