With reports suggesting that it is unlikely the case of the two Greek soldiers being held in Turkey will be resolved before early April, the government sought on Wednesday to dismiss criticism from the media and opposition parties that there are disagreements within the coalition over its course of action.
While it has sought to avoid a full-blown diplomatic clash with Ankara over the matter, the government is reportedly dismayed with Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who has strayed from the official line by describing the two soldiers last week as “hostages.”
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos reckoned on Wednesay that Kammenos, who is also the leader of right-wing coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), used the term “metaphorically.”
Dismissing talk of disagreement within the coalition, Tzanakopoulos added that everyone in the government is working toward securing the release of the two soldiers as soon as possible.
However, Alternate Defense Minister Fotis Kouvelis on Wednesday clearly differentiated his stance from that of Kammenos, saying that “exaggerated rhetoric as expressed from various sides, about hostages, captivity and all the rest does not contribute toward our goal.”
“What we want, and it appears that we have achieved, is to keep the matter at the level of a judicial case at the court of Edirne,” he said, adding that he believed Kammenos was trying to emphasize the delay in resolving a case that should have been treated as a minor incident.
Kouvelis added that Greece has sent a technical expert to Turkey who is to participate in the examination of the solders’ cell phones, which were confiscated by Turkish authorities after the pair accidentally crossed the border in bad weather earlier this month.
Interior Minister Panos Skourletis joined the criticism of Kammenos, saying his use of term hostage was a “mistake.”
Meanwhile, European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos called the soldier case an “unnecessary escalation” that risked being “blown out of proportion,” and urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to set them free.
“No rational person would say the security of a country was at risk because two soldiers had strayed across the border.”