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Media Watch 2003

15 May 2003
Source: Reuters
Comment: The following a report of Reuters on 15 May 2003.
Greece complains over Turkish warplane violations

ATHENS, May 15 (Reuters) - Greece said on Thursday it had informed the European Commission of what it says is a rising number of Greek airspace violations by Turkish fighter jets.

Military aircraft of Greece, and Turkey, long at odds over several territorial disputes in the Aegean sea and the divided island of Cyprus, almost daily report mock dogfights and airspace violations.

"Greece informed the European Commission and will continue to do so of the continuing violations of our airspace that have increased in the recent period," Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis told reporters.

He said two days ago several Turkish war planes entered Greek airspace and were locked in a mock battle with Greek jets before being pushed pack.

"We will use all the tools and the European framework to highlight this practice that goes against any (EU) candidate country," he said.

The European Union on Tuesday said Turkey, an EU hopeful, could meet a December 2004 deadline for implementing necessary reforms needed to allow the start of accession talks with the 15-nation bloc.

Greece, which has strongly supported Turkey's EU aspirations, has said it has recorded a sharp rise of air violations in recent months despite a continuous drop in figures until about a year ago.

"Tension and confrontation in the Aegean will affect Turkey negatively and will influence its European prospects," Beglitis said. "Times have changed and this practice must stop."

The two neighbours, despite a thawing of traditionally tense bilateral ties, came to the brink of war as recently as 1996 over an uninhabited islet in the Aegean.