11 November 2004
ANKARA, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Wednesday that he phoned his Greek counterpart Petros Molyviatis after Greek fighter planes twice harassed Turkish Air Force jets on a NATO exercise over the Aegean on Tuesday.
Gul's statement came in the wake of a series of accusations by Athens over the past few weeks of territorial violations by Turkish warships and military aircraft.
The incidents occurred on Tuesday in international air space during a NATO-supervised exercise code-named East Mediterranean-04, the Turkish minister said.
Two Greek F-4s that took off from Limnos Tuesday morning tailed two Turkish F-16s by as close as 500 feet (150 meters) and were followed several minutes later by two more Greek F-16s that approached the Turkish aircraft "very dangerously," he added.
Turkish military authorities informed a NATO AWACS plane monitoring the exercise, which "made an urgent call to the Greek planes, told them a NATO mission was under way and that they should immediately leave the area," which they did, Gul said.
Gul noted that, according to international agreements, "the island of Limnos has disarmed status."
"Turkey aims to develop relations with its neighbor Greece in every field and sincerely wants disagreements concerning Aegean problems to be solved by peaceful means that will not give rise to tensions," Gul said.
"In these tense times... we want our Greek friends to respond positively to our (approach) and take the necessary measures to avoid the occurrence of any unfortunate events," he said.
Gul said that he "stressed the ways of resolving the problems" when he telephoned Molyviatis on Tuesday.
Greece claimed as early as last Thursday that 18 Turkish fighters violated its air space on at least 11 separate counts, but Turkey denied the claims.
Although they are NATO allies and enjoying an unusual period of warmth in their traditinally stormy relations, the two neighbors have long been at loggerheads over territorial rights in the Aegean.
Greece claims a 10-mile air space limit around its long coastline, but Turkey only recognizes six, arguing that under international law, Greece's air space should be the same as its territorial waters.