© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
02 December, 1997
Greece and Turkey yesterday reached an agreement on a decades-old dispute concerning the use of air space over the Aegean, German General Klaus Naumann, the head of NATO's military committee, said.
"I can confirm that the Greek-Turkish problem has been solved," he said, adding: "It's a problem that has been haunting this alliance for over 20 years."
He also stressed that the agreement included all military aspects of NATO's new command structure.
At the military committee session, where the agreement was reached, Hellenic armed forces National Defense General Staff Chief, Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis, reiterated Athens' proposal regarding the "Combined Air Operations Center", which envisages that there will be no delineation of the areas of responsibilities in the Aegean, and that therefore, the center will not be linked with the Athens FIR overseeing air space in the Aegean.
A senior NATO official also said the agreement was "an enormous breakthrough for the alliance."
In addition to agreeing that both Greek and Turkish officers will share the command headquarters at Larisa and Izmir, the two countries also agreed to nullify what Gen. Naumann called "stacks of documents" on the dispute going back years.
National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said that the formula found was favorable for Greece, and expressed optimism regarding today's NATO defense ministers' session, which will discuss and decide on the new command structure.
"We received satisfactory answers on a series of issues which we had raised. They provide for satisfactory terms in the operation of NATO," he said. He expressed, however, reserved optimism on "Turkey's retreat" and referred to efforts by Ankara to raise obstacles until the very last minute.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos left yesterday for Brussels to attend today's meeting of alliance defense ministers. Informed sources said that despite Greek objections, Turkey had managed to put the issue of the coordinating center for air operations and exercises on the NATO military committee's agenda for discussion. The issue was expected to be discussed within the framework of talks on the implementation of NATO's new structure next spring or autumn.
Turkey reportedly wants the operation of the center separate from the issue of the Flight Information Region, which would make it possible for Turkish aircraft to enter the Athens FIR without submitting flight plans, on the pretext that they were acting within the framework of the center's operation.
Meanwhile, Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later that Greece does not consider that NATO headquarters have a defined area of operational control since it no longer had a specific enemy.
He stressed that even under NATO's new structure, each member state would retain responsibility for protecting its own territory. Asked whether NATO's new structure would cancel out any of Greece's sovereign rights, Mr. Reppas stressed that Greece maintained its right to veto, as it had done with regard to Turkish participation in certain NATO military exercises in the past.
"When NATO exercises are being planned, we will continue to raise issues of concern to Greece, as we have always done," he said.
He noted that all member states had reached agreement on NATO's new military structure, while the details would be worked out over the next few months.
Source: Athens News Agency