PM to broach soldiers, Turkish aggression at EU summit

PM to broach soldiers, Turkish aggression at EU summit

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras aims to broach the matter of Turkey’s ongoing detention of two Greek soldiers as well as a spike in Turkish aggression in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean in recent weeks at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels Thursday and Friday.

Tsipras is expected to ask his EU peers to exert pressure on Turkish authorities to curb delays and secure the speedy release of the two soldiers who have been in a Turkish prison since accidentally crossing the border on March 1.

He is also expected to point to a recent increase in hostile rhetoric by Turkish politicians questioning the sovereignty of Greek islands in the Aegean.

On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated Ankara’s assertion relating to “gray zones” in the Aegean Sea, claiming that the status of certain “islands and islets” remains “undetermined.” 

Tsipras is expected to coordinate with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, who will broach the issue of Turkey violating Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone and challenging its right to drill for hydrocarbons off the island’s coast.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan intensified his rhetoric against both Nicosia and Athens, saying that a hydrocarbon exploration vessel had been dispatched to the Eastern Mediterranean and warning against “attempted drillings” off the coast of Cyprus.

Meanwhile, former socialist premier Costas Simitis, who was prime minister during the Imia crisis, said Wednesday that Athens should urge EU officials to enforce measures to protect Greece from Turkey’s increasing hostility. He said Brussels should underline the need for Turkey to resolve any differences with its neighbors peacefully on a bilateral level if possible, in line with the 1999 Helsinki agreement.

“A random event can provoke an uncontrolled confrontation,” he warned.

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