NEWS

Two Greek soldiers who accidentally crossed into Turkey to be tried Monday

VASSILIS NEDOS

The trial on Monday of the two Greek servicemen who were arrested in Turkey on Thursday after accidentally crossing the border has placed a further strain on the already tense relations between the two countries.

Athens is concerned that the issue which would under other circumstances take a few hours to resolve could drag on for weeks.

Despite the fact that the warrant the two soldiers were arrested on does not provide any premise for the court in the Turkish city of Edirne to charge them with espionage, the Greek government fears that Ankara may resort to all the legal tools at its disposal to delay a final ruling in order to prolong their detention in the neighboring country.

Nonetheless, Athens says it remains optimistic that the issue will be resolved swiftly. Moreover, there has been no indication that Turkey will attempt to make the release of Angelos Mitretodis and Dimitris Kouklatzis contingent on the fate of the eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece in the aftermath of the coup attempt in 2016.

Greece’s Supreme Court has refused the extradition request lodged by the Turkish government on the grounds that they would not get a fair trial in Turkey.

In the meantime, calls in Greece are increasing for a firmer stance to be taken on what is seen as Turkish bully tactics in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, which include the ramming of a Hellenic Coast Guard vessel off the eastern Aegean islets of Imia by a Turkish patrol boat, and the firing of shots from another in a nearby area around the island of Farmakonisi on February 17.

Furthermore, Turkey has upped the ante with Nicosia with its continuing naval blockade off Cyprus’s coast to prevent drillships from conducting exploration for natural gas in the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Analysts view Turkey’s stance as a decision by Ankara to escalate tensions with Greece and to ignore appeals from the West for constraint, whether in the Eastern Mediterranean or the Middle East.

In addition, Turkish government-controlled media is describing Greece as the “long arm” of the “aggressive West.”

 

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