Relations with Ankara sour as Turkish politicians dispute Greek sovereignty

Relations with Ankara sour as Turkish politicians dispute Greek sovereignty

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu met Thursday on the sidelines of the annual OECD Summit in Hamburg amid escalating tensions brought on by the nationalistic rhetoric coming out of Ankara and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos’s reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “ruthless dictator” who “at this moment is threatening our country.”

“If they [Turkey] threaten our country, they will meet with our response and they will know that we shall not make concessions in the name of diplomacy on issues of national sovereignty,” Kammenos said in a radio interview Thursday, referring to recent remarks by Erdogan questioning the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set the borders between Greece and Turkey, as well as by other Turkish politicians who have disputed Greek sovereignty over a string of islets in the eastern Aegean.

The remarks by Kammenos, the leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks, followed strong statements by Turkey’s Deputy Parliament Speaker Tugrul Turkes, who described his country as the guarantor power of the whole of Cyprus, rather than just the breakaway state in the north, while a lawmaker of the opposition CHP, Tanju Ozcan, upped the ante even further, saying he would raise the Turkish flag on 18 Greek islands.

“I will go to the islands and if need be I myself will raise the Turkish flag. Then I will fold the Greek one and send it to the Greek government with a courier,” he told the Turkish Parliament.

The latest acrimonious rhetoric comes as tensions also simmer over the outcome of Turkey’s extradition request for eight officers who landed in Greece in July in the aftermath of a botched coup attempt in the neighboring country.

On Thursday, a Greek court rejected Ankara’s extradition request for two of the officers, two days after another court comprising different judges approved the request for three others. On Monday, another court rejected the extradition of another three officers. The court judges that denied the extradition request accepted the case made by the officers that they will not receive a fair trial if they are returned to Turkey and that their safety will be compromised.

The contradictory rulings have sparked a debate among the country’s legal experts, with several insisting that Greek courts must abide by European human rights statutes and the basic principles of the Council of Europe, and leave the diplomacy to the politicians.

All three of this week’s rulings have been appealed and will now be examined by the Supreme Court. If it too rejects Ankara’s extradition request then the final decision will rest with Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis.

Sources have told Kathimerini, however, that even if both the Supreme Court and the justice minister decide in favor of extradition, it won’t happen immediately as all eight have made use of the asylum procedures which won’t be completed before April.

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