NEWS

Turkey accuses Greek PM of going back on his word over servicemen

TAGS: Defense, Diplomacy

Turkey insisted Monday that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras went back on a promise he made to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to extradite eight servicemen that fled to Greece after the botched coup attempt in Turkey in July.

“Not only did he not keep his promise, but, at the same time, he deceived us and didn’t rise to the occasion,” a Turkish government source told Kathimerini Monday, adding that Tsipras had told Erdogan in a phone conversation at the time that the matter would be “taken care of” in 15 to 20 days. The source insisted that Athens has not fully grasped the “gravity of its error.”

“[Athens] doesn’t comprehend the level of dismay and bitterness this created in Ankara at a time of increased hope for a solution to the Cyprus problem and progress in Greek-Turkish relations,” the source said.

Greece’s Supreme Court had ruled against the extradition of the eight officers to Ankara on the grounds that they wouldn’t receive a fair trial and their lives would be at risk.

However, according to Kathimerini’s sources in Ankara, the decision will lead to heightened tension until that time when “Athens understands the significance of the issue and returns the coup plotters to Ankara.”

Tsipras raised the issue of Turkish aggression during talks last Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Tensions are expected to escalate with regard to Ankara’s claims in the Aegean, and the refugee crisis, while economic relations between the two countries could also suffer.

Ankara has already warned that it will scrap a bilateral deal with Athens for the readmission of refugees and migrants to Turkey and has also begun to flex its muscles in the Aegean with a show of “hard power,” in the form of a barrage of air space violations and actions focused on the islets of Imia – over which the two countries came to the brink of war in 1996.

Ankara has insisted its latest confrontational moves are not a bluff. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu threatened last week that if an “accident occurs over the Aegean, there will be no turning back," suggesting a military clash of some kind.

Meanwhile, calls in Turkey are growing for Ankara to pull the plug on various bilateral trade agreements.

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