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20 October, 2000
Greece's appropriate action should be to call for the immediate discontinuation of NATO's military exercise "Destined Glory 2000", if the unobstructed participation of all countries taking part in the exercise was not secured, Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said on Thursday, following a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Tsohatzopoulos' statement came in the wake of a week-long attempt by Turkey to block the Greek Air force war planes from using air corridors over the eastern Aegean Greek islands of Limnos and Ikaria, during their participation in Destined Glory 2000, despite the fact that the alliance planned and approved the use of the corridors.
In earlier statements to the press, Tsohatzopoulos also stressed that none of NATO members was willing to see the exercise of the alliance downgraded and transformed into a stage for Turkey to voice its claims against everyone else.
Thursday's exercise program included a joint operation of Greek A7 Corsairs and RF4 with Turkish F-16 fighters in central Aegean, between the Greek islands of Skyros and Mytilene and was concluded without problems
On its part, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman, in Ankara on Thursday, said that NATO prepared "new plans" as "Turkish military authorities took necessary measures and lodged the relevant objection with NATO".
Tsohatzopoulos, referring to the joint military exercise of Greek Armed Forces and Cyprus' National Guard, entitled "Nikiforos-Toxotis" performed once every two years, said that the "presence" of Turkish aircraft was marked by a tendency to avoid engagements with Greek aircraft.
Turkish fighter jets on Thursday infringed on the Athens' and Nicosia's Flight Information Region (FIR) to contradict "Nikiforos-Toxotis" exercise, reports said.
According to the same reports, 28 Turkish aircraft infringed on Athens' FIR 10 times over the Greek island of Rhodes and Nicosia's FIR 4 times. Greek warplanes intercepted the Turkish planes in every instance, while in six cases the interception led to unarmed engagement.
According to a Cyprus News Agency (CNA) dispatch from Nicosia, Turkish military jets harassed two Greek air force fighters on their way to Cyprus to participate in the annual military maneuvers.
"Turkish fighters tried to buzz two A-7 Corsair jets as they were flying towards Cyprus for the exercise," a spokesman for the Cyprus defense ministry told CNA on Thursday.
He said the Turkish fighters were intercepted by other Greek jets and the two Corsair aircraft continued on their course unhindered.
"The Greek jets were flying over Cyprus at ten in the morning, they took part in the maneuvers, they hit their targets successfully and completed their mission," the spokesman added.
Replying to questions, he said Greek aircraft will return on Friday for the "Nikiforos" annual exercises, which end Saturday.
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides will observe part of the exercise on Friday, while Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos travels to Cyprus on Friday to watch the final part of the exercise on Saturday, the CNA dispatch added.
Greek defense minister briefs NATO Secretary General on problems in "Destined Glory 2000":
Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos had a telephone conversation on Thursday with NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, in light of developments in the alliance's exercise "Destined Glory 2000", sources said.
Tsohatzopoulos briefed Robertson on Greek positions regarding Turkish action during the exercise, noting that if the unobstructed participation of all countries in the exercise was not secured regarding all military branches or its geographic spectrum, then Greece would act accordingly, the sources added.
Tsohatzopoulos also noted the political dimension of the problem within NATO, following developments during the exercise, they said.
The sources noted that the two men might communicate again on Friday.
Source: Athens News Agency