Athens confident of ‘no diplomatic thriller’ over soldiers’ return by Turkey


Greece’s government spokesman on Tuesday expressed confidence that an impasse with Turkey over the return of two Greek soldiers caught accidentally trespassing into Turkish territory last week will not drag on into a “diplomatic thriller.”

“We need to respect Turkey’s judicial process. I can’t predict anything with certainty but what I can say is that we believe we will not become involved in a diplomatic and political thriller that will drag on interminably,” Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told Skai television.

“To this end, we have rallied all of our diplomatic clout and political resources in order to come through a tough situation and put an end to this particular incident,” he added.

Tzanakopoulos’s comments came a day after a Turkish court rejected an appeal by the two Greek soldiers to be released to the custody of the Greek consulate in Turkey pending trial.

Turkish judicial authorities also have yet to decide whether the two Greeks will be charged only with illegal entry or also with attempted espionage, as some Turkish media has suggested is likely.

Sources in Athens have expressed concern that Ankara may try to use the case of the two Greek soldiers as leverage for the extradition by Greece of eight Turkish servicemen accused of taking part in a botched coup in the summer of 2016.

“We are hoping that Turkey will deal with this issue in the appropriate manner, with respect to international law and the events as they really happened, and not escalate the situation,” Tzanakopoulos said, adding that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to request his assistance if this should be deemed necessary.

The two Greek soldiers were arrested on Thursday after losing their bearings in a storm and accidentally crossing the border into Turkey while on patrol in the northeastern Evros area. They are being held in a prison in Edirne pending trial.