Archive for July, 2011

While the annual number of dogfights was between 300 and 500 in previous years, this number is currently at 79 and is not expected to exceed 100 by the end of the year.

The number of dogfight cases between the Aegean neighbors was 386 in 2007, 382 in 2008 and 402 in 2009. In 2010, the year when the debt crisis centered on events in Greece, where the cost of financing government debt was rising, Greece could no longer bear the cost of dogfights with Turkey.

The total number of mutual violation of each other’s territorial waters and airspace recently approached the lowest level in the last three decades. According to figures provided by the Turkish General Staff, the total number of Greek and Turkish military encounters during exercises and drills has so far reached 192. Greek and Turkish pilots — who encountered each other 31 times in January, 34 times in February, 25 times in March, 30 times in April, 23 times in May, 22 times in June and 27 times in July — have been involved in dogfights only 79 times this year. During that same period, Greek planes violated Turkish airspace 93 times.

In the meantime, Greek and Turkish warships and assault boats have also gone to great lengths in order not to encounter each other in the Aegean Sea. This year so far Greek warships and assault boat violated Turkish territorial waters only 23 times, while this number was no less than 150 in previous years.

A firm mutual will displayed by the prime ministers of the two countries played a key role in the decrease of these numbers.

Back in January, delivering a speech at a gathering of senior Turkish diplomats in Erzurum, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou asked, “What is Turkey trying to prove?” He was addressing Turkish ambassadors and complained about what he said were violations by Turkish jets of Greek airspace earlier in January. “On Wednesday, eight Turkish planes flew over a Greek island. This might be routine for Turkey, but such actions lead Greeks to wonder whether Turkey is seeking a different course,” Papandreou said at the time. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu were also present at the occasion.

Erdoğan chose to respond to Papandreou in a mild tone in a bid to not let harsh words cast a shadow over peaceful messages delivered by both leaders.

After listening to his Greek counterpart’s reproachful speech and upon his return to Ankara, Erdoğan held meetings with the General Staff and the Air Force Command, asking them to reduce the number of flights over the disputed Aegean Sea. At a spring meeting of the National Security Council (MGK), bringing together top political leaders and military commanders, Erdoğan asked Air Force Commander Gen. Hasan Aksay for a detailed briefing of the course of affairs regarding the flights.

In Athens, meanwhile, Papandreou followed a similar line and paved the way for decreasing the number of flights over the Aegean Sea, where Greek and Turkish military planes encounter each other. The Greek Air Force ordered its pilots to not come within two miles of Turkish warplanes, Sunday’s Zaman learned.

The tension between the two NATO allies concerning the dispute over the Aegean Sea gradually decreased after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in 2002. Yet, the militaries of the two countries have also made a significant contribution to decreasing the tension.

Greek authorities frequently accuse Turkish fighters of violating Greek airspace. The Turkish military, constantly dismissing Greek charges of airspace violations, asserts that Turkish military planes face charges of airspace violation every time they pass through the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR Athens). All commercial planes must submit flight information before passing through FIR Athens, but international law makes it clear that military and other state aircraft are not required to give the same notification.

In 2006, a Greek pilot was killed when his plane collided with a Turkish jet during air combat maneuvering over the Aegean.

Following the fatal accident, then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt visited Athens in 2007 to prevent further tension between Greece and Turkey.

In May 2008, then-Greek Chief of General Staff Gen. Dimitrios Grapsas also paid an official visit to Ankara, where he met with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Büyükanıt. Earlier that month, regional rivals Greece and Turkey held a rare joint drill to improve relief responses to natural disasters. It was the third joint drill of its kind, organized as part of confidence-building measures aimed at easing tension between the neighboring nations’ armed forces.

In June 2008, then-Turkish Land Forces Commander Gen. İlker Başbuğ hosted visiting Greek Army General Staff Chief Lt. Gen. Dimitrios Voulgaris, the first Greek chief of General Staff to make an official visit to Turkey.

In November 2010, Greek Naval Forces Commander Vice Adm. Dimitrios Elefsiniotis and Chief of General Staff Gen. Fragkoulis Fragkos paid significant consecutive visits to the Turkish capital in December 2010.

All of these meetings have served as important opportunities for improving mutual understanding between the militaries of the two countries.

In a surprise decision, the Turkish General Staff announced on May 24 in a brief statement on its website that the annual Efes (Ephesus) exercises, involving land, air and naval drills, and the Denizkurdu (Sea Wolf) maneuvers, held at sea every two years, had been canceled. The General Staff had organized a press tour for the maneuvers, scheduled to start on May 25.

In early June, Greek Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Vasileios Klokozas responded positively to an invitation from his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Aksay, to attend ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Air Force.

The two neighbors reciprocally cancelled military exercises in Cyprus last year in the hope of not hurting ongoing peace talks to reunify the divided island and observers claimed at the time that the cancellation of the Aegean exercises could be interpreted as being part of similar steps aimed at improving the reconciliation process the two governments started in recent years.

Nevertheless, despite all of these positive signs and steps and notable improvements in their ties over the past decade, the two neighbors have not yet been able to reach a breakthrough on essential problems concerning the Aegean Sea.

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Η ομιλία του Πρωθυπουργού, Γιώργου Α. Παπανδρέου, σε σύσκεψη με εκπροσώπους τοπικών φορέων στην Άρτα.

Άρτα, 29.07.2011

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PM looks to new growth model

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 Reforms must go through, Papandreou says as ND proposes constitution overhaul

Prime Minister George Papandreou met with local entrepreneurs and party supporters during a visit to Arta, in western Greece, on Friday

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday emphasized the importance of “creating a new growth model” to extricate Greece from its debt crisis, noting that the recipe for growth pursued to date in Greece “has failed.”

Addressing an audience of local entrepreneurs and associations in Arta, western Greece, Papandreou said that the second bailout agreed in Brussels last week had offered Greece “a breather” but that it was not a permanent solution to the country’s economic woes.

He stressed that the time had come to push through a raft of major structural reforms so that Greece can “take a leap toward a better future.”

“The question is… what kind of Greece do we want to build after the crisis?” Papandreou said. “A Greece that depends on the clay feet of foreign lenders, of statism and cronyism? Or an innovative and outward-looking economy which does not need foreign support to prosper?”

Papandreou was accompanied on his visit to Arta by Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis who has heralded several initiatives aimed at boosting growth, ranging from support for ailing businesses facing bankruptcy to tighter cooperation between Greece and Germany in a range of sectors.

Papandreou’s Socialist government has come under heavy criticism for pursuing austerity measures at the expense of growth. The leader of conservative opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras has accused the government of killing growth prospects.

On Friday Samaras presented 31 proposals for constitutional reform. One of the changes suggested is a reduction in the number of MPs in Greece’s 300-seat Parliament. Also, ministers should be obliged to relinquish their MP status on assuming their portfolio, Samaras said.

Last month Papandreou called for a referendum on constitutional reform in the fall.

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