Turk-Greek ties strained by arson row

Turk-Greek ties strained by arson row

EDIRNE - Hürriyet Daily News
Turk-Greek ties strained by arson row

Davutoğlu denies claims that Turkish spies torched Greek forests in ’90s. AA photo

Greece’s foreign minister has pressed his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, to clarify claims that Turkish agents torched Greek forests in the 1990s even though the allegations have been denied, diplomatic sources said.

The minister, Stavros Dimas, asked Davutoğlu late Dec. 28 to clarify the allegations, which were published in a Turkish daily and attributed to former Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz.

The report had prompted the Greek Foreign Ministry to summon staff at the Turkish Embassy in Athens. Yılmaz subsequently said he had been misquoted and that the allegations were untrue, adding that he had been actually referring to unsubstantiated reports of Greek involvement in Turkish forest fires.
Diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News that Davutoğlu asked Dimas to take into account Yılmaz’s denial and underlined the significant improvement in bilateral ties in recent years, a far cry from the tension-loaded climate of the 1990s. Dimas, however, insisted to his Turkish counterpart that the allegations be cleared up.

Davutoğlu had called Dimas to invite him to Turkey’s fourth ambassadors’ conference, the second part of which is being held in the Thracian province of Edirne, which borders Greece. The Greek minister said he would not be able to attend because of a busy schedule, according to diplomatic sources.

On Dec. 27, Greek Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes launched an emergency inquiry into the forest fires, ordering that investigations be reopened into mid-1990s wildfires blamed on arson. Former head of Greek intelligence service Leonidas Vasilikopoulos said they had intelligence that Turkish agencies were involved in the arsons in the 1990s but had no proof, daily Hürriyet reported yesterday. He said they had received information from their agents in Turkey that Turkish agents or others were involved in the forest fires on Greek islands. He also said they should be cautious about the reasons for Mesut Yılmaz’s statements.