Tsipras, Erdogan talks ‘not easy’


Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that it “wasn’t the easiest of meetings” and that he raised the issue of the two Greek soldiers held without charge in the neighboring country since March.

“We have more hope than before the meeting,” he said during a press conference in Brussels, but he made no reference to any commitment by Turkey on the matter.

Tsipras said that Greece is not asking for a favor but that judicial procedures in Turkey be expedited as the two soldiers have not been charged since they were arrested after crossing the Turkish border during a routine patrol.

The Greek premier said that, in response, Erdogan raised the issue of the eight Turkish servicemen who Ankara wants extradited for their alleged role in the coup attempt in 2016.

Tsipras told reporters he had emphasized the distinction between the two matters to Erdogan, adding that the Greek judiciary is independent.

“I stressed, once more, I made clear, that in Greece, the Greek judiciary is totally independent,” he said, adding that “at the same time I underlined what I have repeatedly stated: that for the Greek government, coupists, from any country – from Turkey in this case – or anyone who attempts the breakdown of democratic order, are not welcome in our country.”

Talks between the two leaders, the Greek premier said, also focused on Cyprus, migration and tensions in the Aegean, including Turkish violations of Greek air space.

Tsipras said the two sides agreed to promote measures to de-escalate tensions in the Aegean.

“I put to the Turkish president this increase in Turkish violations in the Aegean and we finally agreed to give emphasis to our efforts to reduce tensions,” he said.

Tsipras also stressed that there is untapped potential in Greek-Turkish relations and the issue of the two Greece soldiers could be key to improving relations.

Speaking to NATO leaders on Wednesday, Tsipras said, “The unprecedented fact that two NATO soldiers have been detained by another NATO country for more than four months because they accidentally crossed into its territory, without even being charged, is an open wound for NATO,” and called on Ankara to “heal the wound with the immediate return of the two soldiers.”