Amid support from EU, coalition leaders to discuss Greek soldiers

Amid support from EU, coalition leaders to discuss Greek soldiers

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to meet his coalition partner Panos Kammenos on Tuesday for talks on the protracted detention of two Greek soldiers in Turkey amid speculation about a rift between them. The meeting comes a few hours after Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue of the Greek soldiers with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Our European partners are showing solidarity and support,” Kotzias said after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

He added that Merkel had broached the issue with Erdogan. “I hope and would like to believe that there will be a positive outcome in the sense that Turkey will not try to turn an everyday event at the border of two countries into a weapon in the long term,” he said, referring to the fact that the two Greek soldiers crossed the border by accident.

Kammenos has kept a low profile recently, even though the case of the two soldiers falls within his competence as defense minister, as his initial response had been regarded as potentially incendiary and reckless by some in the government. 

However, faced with rumors about a split in the coalition, Tsipras and Kammenos are to meet on Tuesday in a bid to present a united front. 

On Monday Kammenos insisted that all was well. “This coalition will continue until the end,” he said.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos also rebuffed speculation about a rift, describing the relationship between Tsipras and Kammenos as “excellent.”

The two men will discuss “possible additional actions” in connection with the two soldiers, Tzanakopoulos said.

Notwithstanding his insistence that all is well, Kammenos did not appear to have compromised.

He used the word “hostages” again to describe the detained soldiers – even though it was this term that had angered many in the government.

He also reiterated his stance as regards Greece’s negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, saying that he will not accept the use of the term “Macedonia” in a solution for the Balkan state’s official name.

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