Impulsive behavior and rhetoric that is limited to catchy, provocative slogans must always be avoided when handling issues of national security. One case in point is that of the eight Turkish servicemen who are seeking asylum in Greece after fleeing the botched coup against the Turkish government in the summer of 2016.
For some inexplicable reason, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken this case very personally, as was evident during his visit to Greece in early December, where he reiterated calls for the officers’ extradition.
Seasoned observers of Greek-Turkish relations reckon the case may act as a “spark” that could lead the two countries to conflict. In terms of the Greek national interest, the eight officers should never have stepped foot on Greek soil. As harsh as it may sound, the Greek government should have taken the necessary measures to make sure this did not happen.
Now, following the Asylum Appeals Committee’s decision over the weekend to grant protection to one of the eight servicemen, the government has been landed in deep trouble. It appears desperate to calm Ankara down, even though it knows its options are limited, given that the Greek justice system is not the Turkish one and that Greece is obliged to respect European rules. The government is basically beginning to understand how dangerous and futile its stance was over similar issues back when it was in the opposition. It’s very easy to be the perfect humanist, the vocal champion of human rights or anything else when you’re on the outside. But when it’s the country’s fate that is at stake, matters get serious.
What is important now, however, is for all of us to lower the volume over the issue. Hurling accusations of treason never ends well. On the contrary, such behavior puts the country in a corner and deprives it of the ability to handle the issue at stake with due caution, especially as everything points to the assumption that 2018 will be an extremely difficult year for Greek-Turkish relations.
In Turkey, relations with Greece have been the subject of intense political confrontation, which is always dangerous, and many grey zones are starting to resurface.
Greece, for its part, will have to exercise moderation and caution in order to avoid any negative outcomes in the context of an international environment that is wracked with uncertainty and where it’s difficult to ascertain whether or not you can rely on the support of others.