NEWS

After Varna, Ankara raises stakes

The Edirne high-security prison, where two Greek soldiers who were detained, after crossing the border into Turkey are being held, is seen in the border city of Edirne, Tuesday.

TAGS: Turkey, Diplomacy, Defense

Athens was left licking its wounds Tuesday after the rejection by a Turkish prosecutor of another appeal for the release of the two Greek soldiers who are being detained in Turkey after accidentally crossing the border during a routine patrol in poor weather earlier this month.

According to reports, the soldiers are to remain in prison in Edirne until evidence has been examined, while Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that their lawyers have asked for the detention to be commuted to house arrest.

The decision was a blow to Greek hopes for their swift return, which received a boost at Monday’s EU-Turkey summit, where European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to release the two soldiers before Greek Easter.

EU leaders also expressed concerns about Turkish actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean.

However, the statements coming out of Ankara Tuesday – aside from the ruling by the Turkish prosecutor – are seen as a clear indication of its intentions following the summit which did little to improve EU-Turkey relations.

With both sides outlining their differences, relations between Brussels and Ankara remain tense.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim Tuesday accused the EU of being “unfair.” And, with regard to the bloc’s stance on the Cyprus issue, he said it had surrendered to the whims of Greek Cypriots.

The latest developments have further fueled concerns in Athens that Ankara will continue to exert pressure on the EU by stoking tensions with both Greece and Cyprus.

The government is now awaiting the outcome of an appeal lodged by the lawyers of the soldiers but optimism is guarded to the say the least.

“I really don’t know if Turkey is swayed by words,” a government source said, adding that the Turkish leadership is constantly telling the world that it wants to smooth out and improve relations, while at the same time “they do whatever they want at home and follow their own agenda.”

Anadolu claimed Tuesday that there is enough evidence to support charges against the soldiers which carry a five-year jail sentence. But no details were provided as to what these charges might be.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said Tuesday that the Turkish prosecutor’s decision vindicated his description of the Greek soldiers as “hostages.”

“The two soldiers are hostages because they have been in prison for 26 days without any charges filed against them,” he told ANT1 TV.
 

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