Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will consider returning the two Greek soldiers who have been detained in Turkey if Greece extradites the eight Turkish servicemen who sought protection in the country after the foiled coup attempt in July 2016, AFP reported.
This is the first time Erdogan directly links the two cases, verifying fears they could be used as a bargaining chip.
"They (Greece) ask us to give back the Greek soldiers and we told them 'if you make such a demand, you should first give us FETO soldiers involved in a coup against our state'," Erdogan reportedly said in a live interview with NTV television, according to AFP.
"If they are handed to us, we will consider" the situation on Greek soldiers, he said.
FETO refers to a movement led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who Ankara accuses being behind the failed coup attempt.
Turkish authorities have kept the Greek servicemen in pre-trial detention in a prison in Edirne since early March after they entered Turkish territory by accident. No official charges have been filed against them.
In the same interview, Erdogan called for peace with Greece, according to a report by the state-run Anadolu agency.
“We need peace now. Besides, our peace with you is like no other,” Erdogan was quoted as saying on Turkey’s NTV channel.
He also reportedly referred to Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a “young, dynamic” leader with a desire “to take a new step.” He was quoted as saying he believed President Prokopis Pavlopoulos was “in the same spirit.”
In a report earlier Saturday, Anadolu said Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul had written to his Greek counterpart Stavros Kontonis saying “Greece is becoming a gathering place for criminals” after a court ruling releasing one of eight Turkish servicemen seeking asylum in Greece.