The tension with Turkey fueled by the arrest of two Greek soldiers almost three weeks ago and the incendiary rhetoric coming out of Ankara has raised concerns in the government that the two countries are heading for a protracted crisis, and that Washington and Brussels can only do so much to intervene.
Despite keeping lines of communication with Ankara open through correspondence between the heads of the two countries’ militaries, Athens fears that Ankara is intent on escalating tensions further.
A case in point is the lack of information regarding the fate of the two soldiers who are being held in Turkey on charges they entered a prohibited military zone. Greece fears that Turkey is deliberately slowing the pace of the legal procedure so that it can use their release as a bargaining chip and force the government into negotiations over other issues as well.
Analysts say that Turkey’s demeanor has convinced Athens, Washington, Brussels and other EU capitals, that Turkey is resorting to a strategy that includes the arrest of people as a means of blackmail, especially of Western countries.
The case of the two soldiers and Turkey’s stance were part of the discussions last week between US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wes Mitchell and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, and other Greek officials.
Washington has been dealing with a similar issue after the arrest in Turkey in October 2016 of US pastor Andrew Brunson, and his life conviction by a Turkish court last week.
With this in mind, Athens is well aware that Washington and the EU have very limited influence over Turkey to keep lines of communication open with Greece.
Despite Turkish statements to the contrary, the government fears the two soldiers could be used as a bargaining chip to force Greece into extraditing the eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece and sought political asylum after the abortive coup in Turkey almost two years ago.
According to Turkish news reports, the Supreme Court’s refusal to extradite the servicemen and others linked to a Turkish terror group suggests that Greece has become a refuge for terrorists. The Turkish government-affiliated Yeni Safak newspaper went as far as to liken Athens to Afrin in Syria.