Greece claims Turkey buzzed minister's jet

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The Independent Online
Greece and Turkey were back in angry confrontation last night after the Greek Defence Minister claimed that in the second such incident this week, his plane was buzzed yesterday by Turkish jets over the Aegean, this time as he was returning from joint military exercises in Cyprus.

According to the Athens Defence Ministry, the C-130 transport plane carrying Akis Tsochatzopoulos was harassed by four Turkish F-16s in Greek airspace before being seen off by eight Greek fighters. Ankara denied any violation, but the minister called Turkey "an international troublemaker," that was reverting to the ways of the Cold War.

Whichever version is correct, the flare-up most emphatically signifies the end of a summer thaw in relations between the eternally feuding Nato partners. It also douses a shortlived burst of optimism that a solution might be found to the 23-year-old Cyprus crisis, that twice in the past decade has helped bring Greece and Turkey close to war.

Once again, both sides are conducting joint military exercises with their client portions of Cyprus, and yesterday Turkey said it would no longer honour a US proposal for a ban on military flights over the island, after this week's joint Greek/Greek Cypriot manoeuvres attended by Mr Tsochatzopoulos.

On top of its intractable dispute with Greece over territorial waters in the Aegean, Turkey is bitter at the decision of the European Union to include the Greek-populated Republic of Cyprus in the six countries selected for the next round of enlargement talks, starting in January 1998 - while deferring negotiations over its own entry into the EU.

A scheduled Balkan summit in Crete in November offers an opportunity to repair some of the damage. But no plans have been made for the two prime ministers to hold a separate meeting.