- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Europes planned military intervention force has found its first target: the ancient feud between Greece and Turkey. No easy solutions are in sight.
The influential Turkish generals have finally spelled out the reasons for their opposition to the European Unions rapid deployment corps: fear that it might operate in the sensitive areas of the Aegean Sea and Cyprus to protect Greek interests.
The European Union hopes to have a 60,000-strong force independent of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to intervene in crises in which NATO does not want to get involved. But the Europeans count on using some NATO facilities, including electronic surveillance, transport and bases.
Turkey, a staunch NATO member since 1952, has opposed the plan as potentially "creating new division lines on the European continent."
Turkey has asked for a voice on the EUs military activities close to its borders, an idea opposed by Greece, which also fears that under Turkish pressure Cyprus and the Aegean could be excluded from military contingency plans.
In a briefing to Turkish journalists, Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu, the chief of the general staff of the armed forces, described the planned European corps as "not a force which will fight big battles or wars. It is not a force which can be compared to NATO."
And he added, showing sensitivity to the attitude of some European capitals: "Turkey deserves Europe more than many European countries. … It has been a NATO member since 1952. It has contributed more to the security and defense of Europe than many other countries."
Turkey is a candidate for EU membership, but it is unlikely to be admitted in the foreseeable future. At their summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, last week, EU leaders said Turkey particularly needed to improve its human rights record.
"Turkey is urged to take concrete measures to implement the priorities of accession partnership," an EU communique said. "In a number of areas, such as human rights, further progress is needed."
Turkey has NATOs second-largest armed forces after the United States. It has argued that EU access to various NATO assets should be decided on a case-by-case basis and not as a permanent factor.
Turkeys role in NATO has always been considered crucial during the Cold War, the demise of the Soviet Union and the Persian Gulf war.
Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit pointed out that "Turkey is the only NATO ally having borders with countries developing or possessing weapons of mass destruction. … Turkey believes that NATOs pioneering role in maintaining security and stability in Europe should not be damaged."
Commenting on Turkish and U.S. skepticism about the planned European rapid-reaction force, the German daily Suddeustche Zeitung wrote: "The Europeans themselves are in the way. No will has yet been discerned to make the necessary financial means available for material and equipment."
According to the Greek daily Kathimerin, "It will be very difficult to produce a diplomatic formula which would meet Turkeys demands, fulfill EU principles and, above all, satisfy Greeces position."

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