Pact to defuse Turkey-Greece tension

Turkey and Greece have announced several confidence-building measures, including extending a ban on military exercises in the Aegean Sea and establishing direct telephone links between military leaders.

    Both countries use the Aegean Sea for military excercises

    The foreign ministers of the two countries, meeting on the sidelines of a conference in Istanbul on Saturday, announced the measures, which include a hotline linking their air force controls in a bid to defuse a long-running dispute over Aegean Sea airspace, which led to a deadly mid-air collision last month.

     

    A second hotline will connect the military chiefs of the two Nato member countres.

     

    Turkey's Abdullah Gul, at a joint press conference with Dora Bakoyannis of Greece, said the agreement to link the military air traffic control centres - in Larissa, Greece and Eskisehir, Turkey - would go into effect from July 1.

    Greece claims an airspace extending 16km beyond its coastline, but Turkey recognises a territorial limit of only six miles and arguing that under international rules Greece's airspace cannot go beyond that.


    Fatal collision

     

    A Greek pilot died on May 23 after his jet collided with a Turkish fighter over the same waters. Turkey disputes that it had overflown Greek territory and said its pilot, who ejected to safety, was technically in international Mediterranean airspace.

    Joint military exercises are part
    of the Greece-Turkey accord

    Two days later Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, announced the  future creation of the hotline between the air force control centres, calling it part of efforts begun in April 2005 to mitigate the conflict.

    Gul and Bakoyannis also announced they would extend the summer moratorium on Aegean military flights by a month - from June 15 to  September 15 - and would hold joint military exercises, beginning  in November, to prepare for natural disasters.

    In 1996 Greece and Turkey began a process of improving relations but several major points of contention remain, provoking tensions within their Nato military alliance and over Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

    SOURCE: AFP


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