Balkans: January 21, 2004


On January 20 Turkey accepted a military spending reduction proposal made by Greece. A number of military analysts had been looking for such a reduction by both Greece and Turkey. The public acceptance is a diplomatic signal that Greece and Turkey are moving forward with the Aegean reconciliation process. It has been a long time coming. One Turk leader acknowledged that the agreement is a signal "that trust is continuing to develop between our countries." This is also a chance to save money. Greece spends five percent of its GDP on defense, and Turkey spends a little over five percent. Greeces Socialist Party wants to reduce Greek defense spending to four percent of GDP. In the last three decades Turkey and Greece have come close to war at least three times, the latest close call being 1996. The disputes center on islands in the Aegean and, of course, divided Cyprus. Illegal Middle Eastern immigrants (usually Iranian, sometimes Arab) seeking to enter Greece from Turkey (along the Thracian border) often step on land mines. The Greek-Turk border in Thrace remains heavily fortified, though Greek and Turk leaders acknowledge the alert level of ground forces deployed there isnt high. One of the indicators that the Greek-Turk rapprochement is real is talk of increased counter-terror intelligence cooperation between the Greek and Turk governments. That began prior to November 2003's savage terror bomb attacks in Istanbul, but those attacks (the opening of a Turkish front Al Qaeda called it) were sad reminders of the Islamo-fascist terror threat in the region. Greece is finishing up the trials of its home-grown November 17 terror clique and is looking for a chance to demonstrate its support for stopping terrorist operations in the Balkans. (Austin Bay)


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