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Statement by Ambassador Necati Utkan, Spokesman of the Foreign Ministry in Response to a Question Regarding the Athens FIR (Unofficial Translation) January 5, 1999

QUESTION: Within the past few days, some articles and comments appeared in the Greek press indicating that Greece could not carry out its responsibility for the air traffic services as required within the Athens FIR and therefore this responsibility might be transferred to the Air Traffic Control Centers in Rome or Istanbul and on this basis it was likely that IATA could apply to ICAO to alter the Athens FIR. Can you please comment on that?

ANSWER: It is true that Greece fails to fulfill its technical responsibilities within the Athens FIR. This is not a new issue. When looked at the documents of international civil aviation organizations, it will be understood that this problem was there even before 1980's and due to her technical incapacity, Greece has not been able to provide the required services within the Athens FIR for several years now. As a matter of fact, it has been recorded that, Greece, which serves only for 7% of the European air traffic, has been by it self responsible for 30% of the delays in Europe. Despite the insistent attitude of the international aviation community on this matter, Greece still is not able to put a sufficient air traffic radar network into service.

Greece, on the other hand, continues to abuse the FIR responsibility which is solely a technical service conferred by ICAO. Greece attempts to present FIR as if it was an area of sovereignty and thus violates the international law.

The statement of Mr. Tzohatsopoulos, the Greek Defense Minister, as quoted by the ANA Bulletin of 2 December 1998, in which he threatened Turkey that "Greece would equip the Athens FIR with missiles" was yet another example to the unsound Greek approach in violation of the international law.

While trying in an illegitimate manner to hamper Turkish activities in the international airspace of Aegean on every occasion through baseless allegations which have no place in the civil aviation field such as "infringements of FIR", Greece is not even capable to fulfill its air traffic responsibilities within the Athens FIR.

In such cases, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has the authority and responsibility to take remedial measures and, if necessary, to transfer the FIR responsibility to another air traffic unit.

In this context, the Turkish civil aviation units which are fully equipped including the radar network, have the capability to provide air traffic services at required standards over the whole of Aegean without failing to carry out their present duties.