Turkey’s quid pro quo decision on Thursday to suspend the migrant readmission deal it had signed with Greece over the latter’s refusal to extradite eight Turkish soldiers was seen as yet another symptom of deteriorating relations between the two countries.
Reiterating Ankara’s “us against them” narrative, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the Greek government wants to solve the problem but is being pressured by the West not to extradite the servicemen.
“There is a migrant deal with the EU. This is being implemented. There is also a bilateral readmission deal with Greece. Now we have suspended this readmission deal. We will continue our work toward Greece after the final court decision,” Cavusoglu said.
The remaining four of the eight soldiers were released on Monday after an order extending their custody expired. A decision on their asylum applications is still pending.
Describing his comments as “unfortunate,” diplomatic sources in Athens said that the suspension announced by Cavusoglu has already been the case since 2017.
The same sources were critical of Ankara for wanting the government to override decisions by Greek courts in order to satisfy its demand for the extradition of the servicemen to stand trial for their alleged role in the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
For its part, Athens views the acrimony as part of populist Turkish election campaigning.
Greece was further derided on Thursday by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at an election rally. He said Greece is financially “finished” and slammed credit rating agencies for upgrading it nonetheless.
“Our neighbors are bankrupt, they’re done and [rating agencies] have upgraded them four times,” he said, adding that Greece has “sunk and collapsed.”
“Just look at the state of their roads,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ankara said it was beefing up security in the Aegean to “prevent possible provocative actions” from Greece, Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu reported. It added that the Turkish Navy ordered one frigate and two gunboats to be on alert around the clock, along with a special underwater forces team (SAT).
Anadolu said that the measures are in response to what it claims to be Greece’s attempts to stoke tension in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Sea.