Greece: Top prosecutor probes Turkey-arson claim

AP News
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Posted: Dec 27, 2011 9:33 AM
Greece: Top prosecutor probes Turkey-arson claim

Greece's top prosecutor on Tuesday ordered an emergency inquiry into a Turkish newspaper report that Turkish government-funded agents set forest fires in Greece in the mid-1990s.

The Birgun newspaper quoted former Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz as making the allegations. But Yilmaz said he had been misquoted and that the allegations were untrue.

Greece's Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes launched an emergency inquiry, ordering investigations reopened into mid-1990s wildfires blamed on arson, while the Foreign Ministry said it was seeking an official response from Ankara.

"Information that has been published and attributed to former prime minister of Turkey Mr. Yilmaz by the Turkish press is serious and should be investigated," Greek ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras said in a statement. "The Greek side expects to be informed by the authorities of Turkey."

Tensions between traditional rivals Greece and Turkey were running high at the time referred to in the newspaper report, with the two countries coming to the brink of war in 1996 over disputed sovereignty of a tiny island in the Aegean Sea. The two NATO allies have since improved ties.

Yilmaz, who served as Turkey's prime minister three times during the 1990s, was quoted by the newspaper as saying he had not been briefed by his predecessor in office, Tansu Ciller, on covert state-funded operations that included a "forest retaliation against Greece."

He later told reporters he had been misquoted and had been referring to unsubstantiated reports of Greek involvement in Turkish forest fires.