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28 May, 1998
The government yesterday called Turkey's reservation of 17 sea regions in the Aegean's international waters for military exercises from June 4-20 as "provocative".
In response, National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos initially described Ankara's move as "normal", stressing however, that the location of the exercises, southeast and southwest of Crete or some 250 miles from Turkey, as a "provocative choice by the neighboring country. He also added that it was "within the general political choices of Turkey".
The issue, he said, will be dealt with through the usual procedures. On his part, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the Turkish exercises in the Aegean and in two areas south of Crete "contain an element of provocation which should not leave the international community indifferent".
Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos rejected the use of the term "moratorium" on military exercises in the Aegean, stressing that the initiative of NATO Secretary General Javier Solana regarding confidence-building measures (CBMs) in the Aegean consisted in the implementation of an agreement to limit exercises and flights during the summer months.
"I hope that we will within the next two or three weeks have such an agreement again this year. But the issue is the duration of the agreement. We believe it should be longer than the two months which has been the case up to now, and be extended to two- and-a-half months. The question of when it will commence is not really the issue," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said.
The Greek minister had a meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Costas Simitis on the multi-million-dollar armaments program aimed at bolstering the defense capability of the Greek armed forces, as well as talks on Greek-Turkish relations and the forth coming meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers.
On the armaments program, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said it had been agreed to convene the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) next month to take decisions on part of the program, so that by the end of the year, following successive KYSEA meetings, the entire program will have been approved and its implementation may commence.
Source: Athens News Agency