Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on Wednesday accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of using the detention of two Greek soldiers in Turkey as a bargaining chip, but added that the lifting of a state of emergency following the botched coup of 2016 may bring a change of attitude in Ankara.
“We cannot play with human lives in the game of diplomatic rivalry, because it takes us outside the bounds of what is permissible in international relations and into hostile territory,” Tzanakopoulos said in an interview of Antenna TV a day after a Turkish court rejected a fifth appeal for the release of the two soldiers who have been held without charge since early March for accidentally crossing into the Turkish border.
Athens will continue to exercise “all means of political leverage, all diplomatic and legal avenues” for the soldiers’ release, he said, adding that he does not rule out a “change of stance from the Turkish government, Turkish justice and also from Mr Erdogan.”
Already tense relations between Athens and Ankara have been further exacerbated by the non-extradition of eight Turkish officers wanted by Turkey for their alleged role in the failed coup of 2016 against Erdogan’s government. It has been suggested by officials on both sides that the continued detention of the two soldiers is related to this incident, though Ankara denies that the two cases are associated.