Ankara expressed intense dismay on Thursday at Wednesday’s irrevocable decision by the Council of State to grant asylum to one of the eight Turkish servicemen who sought refuge in the country after the 2016 failed coup in Turkey.
“With this decision, Greece has been registered as a country that protects coup plotters in the eyes of the international community,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We strongly condemn this decision that deeply offends the conscience of the Turkish nation,” it said.
The Council of State rejected an attempt by the Greek government to block an earlier decision by an asylum committee to grant asylum status to Suleyman Ozkaynakci.
Athens is concerned that the decision, taken in the runup to Turkish elections, could lead to further acrimony.
The ruling is also expected to influence the applications of the other seven servicemen, and the Turkish ministry expressed “hope the Greek judiciary will refrain from repeating the same mistakes by taking similar biased decisions in the future.”
However, according to analysts, the Turkish ministry’s statement was somewhat milder than previous ones on the issue. Nonetheless, Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik described the decision as “the most shameful” one that could have been taken.
“The legal system of EU member Greece has decided to protect terrorists who had initiated a coup attempt in a bid to destroy democracy in Turkey,” he said.
The tension comes amid continued concern over the fate of the two Greek soldiers who have been held in Turkey since March.
Alternate Defense Minister Fotis Kouvelis told lawmakers on Thursday that “nobody can be specific about when the two soldiers will be released.” Their imprisonment, he said, is part of an “unacceptable nationalist tactic” by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for election purposes.
In a bid to defuse tensions, the Hellenic Armed Forces General Staff (GEETHA) Chief Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis and his Turkish counterpart General Hulusi Akar discussed ways of de-escalating tension in the Aegean to avoid the possibility of an accident – on the sidelines of a NATO Military Committee meeting in Brussels last week and at this week’s 12th Balkan Countries CHODs Conference in Belgrade.