The comments on Friday by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos that the two Greek soldiers who were arrested in Turkey last week are “hostages that must be released” were in stark contrast to the government’s low-key approach to the matter and highlighted cracks within the coalition.
Speaking to reporters in Bucharest, Kammenos, who is also the leader of the nationalist junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), said that “at this moment, there are two Greek hostages in Turkish prisons.”
“I am asking for the support of the Romanian defense minister in demanding the immediate release of these NATO, European and Greek servicemen,” he said after meeting with his Romanian counterpart Mihai Fifor in Bucharest.
His remarks contradict the position expressed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – namely that the issue is in the hands of the Turkish justice system and that Greece will await the results of the judicial procedure.
On Thursday, Tsipras told Parliament that he considered the matter a “usual border incident,” and, in response to the demand by New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis to raise the issue with the Turkish leadership, added that he doesn’t want it to escalate into a “major diplomatic” spat that might possibly lead to turmoil.
Known for his sometimes bombastic and impulsive outbursts, Kammenos’s remarks came after a week of relative silence on his part, barring his talks on the matter with NATO ministers in Brussels on Wednesday.