NEWS

Ruling on Turkish officer fuels fears for bilateral ties

TAGS: Diplomacy, Politics

With Turkish authorities insisting on the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled their country after a thwarted coup in 2016, and amid rising tensions in the Aegean, there are fears in Athens of a further degeneration in Greek-Turkish ties.

An administrative appeals court is expected to rule this week on a request by the Greek government to block a tribunal’s decision to grant asylum to one of the eight Turkish servicemen. Lawyers representing the Greek state in the case maintain that granting asylum to the soldier could harm bilateral relations.

The decision expected this week is to be a temporary one, as the case is to be examined comprehensively in February. In any case, there are fears that if the court ultimately rules in favor of asylum for the serviceman, and his seven fellow soldiers, Athens will come under great pressure from Ankara.

If the asylum applications are rejected, it is almost certain that the eight men will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which would take the heat off Greece.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear what Athens will do if Ankara accepts a proposal by Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis for the eight men to be tried in Greece for the crimes they are accused of in Turkey. Legal experts question whether this is even possible.

On a visit on Saturday to the Aegean island of Kalymnos, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras extended a message of “cooperation, peace and friendship” toward Turkey. At the same time, however, he expressed Greece’s “decisiveness as regards the defense of its sovereign rights as set out in international treaties.”

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