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Greece wanted to send back Turkish officers on July 15, says ex-defense minister

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Greece was ready to send back the eight Turkish officers who landed with a military helicopter in Alexandroupoli on the night of the July 15 failed coup attempt against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but no communication could be established with the Turkish side, former defense minister Evangelos Apostolakis revealed in an interview with Greek broadcaster Mega on Wednesday.

“Even when the helicopter with the eight [servicemen] landed, an attempt was made to return the helicopter, but communications [with Turkey] were lost,” he said.

“When the helicopter landed, I tried to contact [Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi] Akar, because the matter would have been closed much more smoothly.”

When communications were restored and Akar finally asked Apostolakis to extradite the Turkish officers, “the situation had developed, they [the officers] had been arrested, they had entered the asylum procedure, Justice had been involved, there was no way to do anything.”

“The point was, at that moment, before they were accepted, to have had some communication so as to do what had to be done,” the minister explained.

Apostolakis also claimed that Greece had information that a coup was being planned a few hours before it actually happened and that the head of the Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP) warned Akar, who said he hadn't heard about it.

As the coup attempt was developing, the former minister said he tried to contact his Turkish counterpart but the phones were down.

“We were monitoring Erdogan’s movements, we knew he was in a hotel and at some point we saw an airplane going to pick him up,” he continued.

Apostolakis, a former Greek armed forces chief, also refused to clarify whether Greece was ready to send a helicopter to help Erdogan, if that was deemed necessary.

“I can neither confirm nor deny it. An attempt was made to communicate if something needed to be done. I think we maintained a very good stance on the issue,” he responded.