Greek political leadership angrily reacts to Erdogan ‘bargaining’ over fate of 2 soldiers

23 April 2018
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The country’s political leadership angrily reacted on Sunday afternoon to high-profile statements by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who for the first time linked a return of two Greek soldiers – held in the neighboring country on opaque charges – with the fate of eight Turkish officers that have requested political asylum in Greece.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who holds a wholly ceremonial head of state role, called any prospect of an “exchange” as incomprehensible, while also charging that the official Turkish state is showing an ignorance of international law.

On his part, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos – the head of small right-wing party propping up the Tsipras government – said the Erdogan statements essentially confirmed an assessment that the two Greek servicemen are Ankara’s hostages.

A Greek army lieutenant and NCO were detained and subsequently charged with entering a restricted military zone on Turkish territory after straying across a poorly demarcated spot on the Greek-Turkish frontier on March 1, 2008. Previously, such incidents by personnel from either country were resolved in a matter of hours and at the local military level. This time, however, the two Greek military cadres were arrested, brought before a magistrate in the border town of Edirne and ordered held in pre-trial detention. Nearly two months later no specific charges and no fixed trial date has been set.

Conversely, the eight Turks have requested political asylum in Greece after fleeing Turkey aboard an army evacuation helicopter hours after a failed coup in the neighboring country.

A statement by the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party noted that “Turkey must, at long last, realize what an independent judiciary means in a rule of law state, such as Greece.”

Similar statements were issued by other Greek political leaders, with criticism of “Ankara’s Middle East bazaar bargaining”.

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