Greece has become a “haven” for coup plotters after resisting Turkish demands for the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen from Greece, Greek newspaper Kathimerini quoted Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım as saying.
Turkey and Greece have been trading barbs at a rate in recent months that has left some concerned of a heightened risk of conflict between the two neighbours.
Foremost among the issues dividing the countries are Turkey’s prosecution of two sets of soldiers – one pair of Greek soldiers held in Turkey, and the eight Turkish soldiers in Greece.
The Greek soldiers were arrested after crossing the border in early March. Greece insists they had stumbled into Turkish territory due to bad weather, but Turkish authorities have kept the pair in detention awaiting trial.
Greek Prime Mınister Alexis Tsipras responded by accusing Turkey of using the Greek soldiers as “hostages” to bargain for the eight Turkish servicemen, who sought refuge in Greece after the 2016 coup attempt. Turkey says the eight were involved in the coup attempt and has applied for their extradition a number of times.
“Why doesn’t he talk about this?” said Yıldırım. “They carried out a coup in Turkey. They killed people and harmed the country.”
The prime minister went on to say that the Greek soldiers were being tried, and that Turkey’s judicial system would “do what it must.”
Yıldırım’s comments apparently tying the two cases together came shortly after Turkish government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ’s “outright” statement declaring them as unrelated.
“There is no question of an exchange of the two Greek soldiers,” Kathimerini quoted him as saying. “We have said this many times. One issue is very different from the other.”