OPINION

Aegean action: Problem or politics?

Almost every day I read about Turkish military aircraft «invading or violating Greek Aegean air space.» I am not going to say this is totally false, because Turkey has long maintained a very aggressive stance in this part of the world. The Turks remember their glorious days under the Ottomans, just as the Greeks remember their glorious days. Now let’s look at facts. The Aegean Sea is international waters, and that is guaranteed by both Greece and Turkey. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules state that «state aircraft,» meaning military aircraft, may operate freely over international waters. This does not give Turkey the right to overfly Greek islands, nor to «buzz» commercial aircraft, but it does give the Turks, the Americans, the French and the Russians the right to conduct military operations anywhere in international waters. That is a right granted by the ICAO, a branch of the UN, and it cannot be denied to anyone. It is interesting how the Greeks talk about the problems beginning from 2000. When did the Greek government announce that they would extend Greek territorial waters from 6 to 12 miles? This change, if ever implemented, would prevent Turkish fishing boats from reaching the international waters of the Aegean, as well as preventing the Turkish air force from operating over the Aegean, a right guaranteed them by international treaties. If the Greece really wants to stop the problems in the Aegean, then it should drop its claim to an extended territorial limit. As for the «dogfights,» that is not a governmental problem, but just the nature of the beast. Fighter pilots will «get it on» with anyone handy. If a group of US Navy pilots find some Marine pilots, there will be a «dogfight!» Navy, Marine, air force, it really doesn’t matter, the US Navy had «dogfights» with the Russian air force at the height of the Cold War. US and Russian «killer subs» did the same thing: It is the nature of the military men who are in «aggressive jobs» to show how skilled they are, and what better way than with the people they will go against? I guarantee that every time there is a Greek-Turkish «dogfight,» every pilot and commander is going over everything the other side did. I also guarantee that the Greek military leaders are encouraging these «dogfights.» It is the best training available. If the Greek government is really concerned, then the complaints should be going to the ICAO, because it is not a European problem; it is an international problem. I believe the reason that Greece keeps complaining to Europe is because it knows that it has no «real» complaint to give to the ICAO! (I spent 26 years at Air Traffic Control USA, including four years at Oceanic Control involving ICAO rules and regulations, and six years at Air Traffic Control Bahrain ACC, including all aspects of ICAO ATC.) LES GROVE,Ano Glyfada. Editor replies: Greece, which has protested to the ICAO, extended its air space from 6 miles to 10 in 1931. Turkey began to test this in 1974. Violations of air space began long before 2000; that is just the year mentioned in recent reports to compare with what is going on now. Greece reserves the right to expand its territorial waters to 12 miles, according to international law that came into effect in 1997.