The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday not to extradite the eight officers that Turkey has accused of treason has added another thorn to the already strained relationship between Athens and Ankara.
Defense Minister Panos Kammenos on Saturday shot back at threats by Ankara on Friday to scrap a bilateral migrant deal in response to the ruling, saying that Turkey should first direct its threats to the European Union and NATO with which it has also signed agreements. Kammenos also said that the neighboring country must come to terms with the trappings of democracy. “Turkey must understand that the justice system in democratic countries is independent,” he said.
Thursday’s decision capped a six-month period of intense pressure on Athens – behind the scenes and publicly as well – over an issue that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described as “personal.”
Ankara’s persistence elevated the extradition of the officers to face trial over their alleged role in a failed coup last summer into a priority issue defining bilateral relations. The decision not to turn the officers over on the grounds they may not receive a fair trial was denounced by Ankara as a breach of trust, claiming it was politically motivated aimed at harming Turkish interests.
There is also concern that the recent tension could lead to a breakdown in communication between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Erdogan.
Given these developments, Turkey is almost certain to demand at the upcoming meeting of NATO defense ministers in mid-February, the end of patrols by NATO’s Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) in the Aegean Sea to stem the flow of migrants into Greece.