Greece, Turkey Join NATO Exercise
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ In an unprecedented show of regional cooperation difficult to imagine even a year ago, defense officials said Friday that Turkish marines will storm Greek beaches later this month during a NATO military exercise.
The last time Turkish marines landed _ on a disputed Aegean Sea islet in 1996 _ Greece and Turkey almost fought a real war. Only last-minute intercession by the United States prevented the first armed conflict between two NATO allies.
Now Greece and Turkey will jointly participate in Dynamic Mix, the largest annual NATO exercise in the eastern Mediterranean.
Taking place from May 20 to June 10, the maneuvers involve 15,000 troops, 293 aircraft and 65 ships from 12 countries. Greece and the United States have the largest participation, with 2,400 and 5,195 troops respectively.
Greece and Turkey both first participated in the 15-year-old air, land and sea exercise in 1998. But this is the first time that troops and aircraft from Turkey will be on Greek soil. Greece’s armed forces will be in Turkey in September for Distant Glory, another NATO exercise.
In Dynamic Mix, about 150 Turks will join fellow marines from Greece, Spain and the United States in a beach landing in southern Greece, near an area where Greeks started their 1821 war of independence from Ottoman Turkish rule.
During the exercise, Turkish jets will operate out of a major Greek air base whose main role for years has been to intercept them over the Aegean.
Relations between Greece and Turkey have been steadily improving in recent months following an outpouring of mutual aid when earthquakes struck the two countries last fall.
Earlier this year Greece lifted its objections to Turkey’s candidacy in the European Union, and the two countries signed a number of low-level accords to improve ties.