Ankara has upped the ante with Athens, targeting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and threatening to scrap a migration deal in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday not to extradite the eight Turkish officers that Turkey says were involved in the botched coup attempt in July.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the ruling against the extradition of the officers, who he described as “terrorists,” would harm bilateral ties as it “undermined trust,” claiming that Tsipras had promised in a phone conversation after the coup to resolve the matter swiftly.
“I called him the first night [after the coup attempt] and he said the matter would be settled in 15 to 20 days,” said Erdogan.
The prime minister’s office responded to the claim saying that Tsipras told Erdogan in their phone conversation that the issue would “probably be cleared up” within the time frame the Turkish leader mentioned, and not that the officers would be extradited.
Moreover, a government official said on Friday that the decision was in the hands of Greece’s independent justice system and “it is self-explanatory that its decisions are binding.”
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisted that the Supreme Court’s decision was politically motivated.
“This is a political decision, Greece is protecting and hosting coup plotters,” he said. The Turkish minister also warned that Ankara intends to scrap a bilateral deal with Athens for the return of refugees to Turkey, stoking government fears in Athens that the refugee crisis could become another thorn in the side of troubled Greek-Turkish relations.
“We are evaluating what we can do. There is a migration deal we signed, including a readmission deal with Greece, and we are evaluating what we can do, including its cancellation,” said Cavusoglu.
Even though a European Union spokeswoman said Brussels was confident that cooperation with Turkey on migration will continue, Athens believes the refugee crisis cannot be managed without bilateral cooperation with Ankara.
Cavusoglu said that Turkey will submit a new extradition request, and that it wants the eight officers be tried again.
The latest spat between the two countries comes as negotiations to unify the ethnically divided island of Cyprus are ongoing.