The new Turkey
Turkey - Greece relations March 2018

22-Mar-2018 12:57


Greece to raise Turkish tensions with EU - report

22 March 2018

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will raise the subject of Turkey’s ongoing detention of two Greek soldiers at a European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, Ekathimerini reported.

Tsipras will also complain about a spike in Turkish aggression in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, the newspaper said .

The Greek prime minister is expected to ask EU politicians to exert pressure on Turkish authorities to secure the speedy release of the two soldiers, who have been in Turkish custody since accidentally crossing the border in bad weather on March 1, Ekathimerini said.

Tsipras will also highlight a recent increase in hostile rhetoric by Turkish politicians over sovereign Greek islands.

On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated Ankara’s assertion 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, the newspaper said. Source


'Greek provocations rise due to Turkish victory in Afrin'' - pro-gov't daily

18 March 2018

The ‘powers’ finding Turkey’s existence in Syria and its success in destroying a terrorist force in Afrin, are now trying to provoke Turkey, according to pro-government daily Yeni Şafak.

The new strategy of those ‘powers’ is “to escalate tensions in the Aegean over Greece,” claims the newspaper. 

“The names behind Greece’s aggression are usual suspects,” says Yeni Şafak, naming the U.S., United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Israel.

To increase tension, Greece allegedly violates Turkish territorial waters frequently, while trying to harass Turkish military aircrafts. Yeni Şafak also claims that Greece is increasing the number of Joint Standoff Weapons (J-SOWs) in its inventory. 

The relations between Turkey and Greece have strained recently after two Greek soldiers were arrested in Turkey. Moreover, Greek Courts have rejected Turkey’s demands the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 and sought asylum, as well as nine suspected Turkish militants  arrested in Athens ahead of an official visit by Turkey’s president late last year.

The natural gas resources of Cyprus  and Turkey’s attempts to prevent offshore gas drilling around the island also mounts tensions.  Source


Athens is concerned of a protracted crisis between Turkey and Greece

18 March 2018

The Greek government is concerned that Turkey and Greece are heading towards a protracted crisis due to the tension between two countries after the arrest of two Greek soldiers in Turkey and the rhetoric of Ankara on disputed issues.

“Athens fears that Ankara is intent on escalating tensions further,” claimed Greek Kathimerini on Sunday. 

“Greece fears that Turkey is deliberately slowing the pace of the legal procedure for two arrested soldiers so that it can use their release as a bargaining chip and force the government into negotiations over other issues as well,” it added. 

According to Ekathimerini, Athens, Washington, Brussels and other EU capitals are convinced that “Turkey is resorting to a strategy that includes the arrest of people as a means of blackmail, especially of Western countries”.

Consequently, the Greek government suspects that Turkey may use those two soldiers as a bargaining chip for the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 and sought asylum.

Greek Supreme Court has rejected Turkey’s demands for extradition on the grounds that this may put the lives of those people in danger and that their rights might be violated. Source

Greek court rejects Turkey’s extradition request

14 March 2018

A Greek court rejected on Wednesday Turkey’s request for the extradition of one of nine suspected Turkish militants  arrested in Athens ahead of an official visit by Turkey’s president late last year.

The court rejected the request on the grounds that Halaz Secer’s life could be in danger if returned to Turkey. The court also ruled that some of the offenses against Sever, including participating in protests and making banners, were not crimes. 

Secer was allegedly linked to the left-wing Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organisation. 

The Greek Court of Appeals has also ruled the same way for two additional members of the same organisation within the last month. No decision has yet been made about the six remaining members of the group.

Greece has also rejected the extradition of eight soldiers allegedly linked to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Source

Greece prepares military exercise near Turkish resort town

13 March

As tensions between Greece and Turkey continue, Greece is preparing for four naval exercises in the Aegean including one off the Turkish resort town on Turkey's Aegean coast Kuşadası, opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet said .

All four exercises will cover areas that include stretches of the Turkish maritime border, the newspaper said.

The move comes after Turkey prevented Republic of Cyprus from exploring for gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean Sea through hosting its own military exercises in the area.

Turkey is likely to attempt to prevent the military exercises getting too close to the Turkish coastline by posting warships close by, Cumhuriyet said. Source

Protests against Turkey’s detention of Greek soldiers


Some 3,000 people marched in northern Greece on Sunday to protest Turkey’s continued detention of two Greek soldiers.

The pair, Sgt Dimitris Kouklatzis, 27, and Lt Angelos Mitretodis, 25 were arrested at the beginning of this month after reportedly being found in a “forbidden military zone” in Turkish territory. The soldiers say they strayed across the border after becoming lost in bad weather.

Greek police said more than 3,000 people joined the protest in the town of Orestiada near the Turkish border.

“We want to send the message that we live in peace and harmony with our neighbours in this area,” protesters told the Guardian newspaper.

The arrest of the soldiers has further strained ties between the two countries that are already tense due to issues including natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean and disputes over the ownership of islets in the Aegean  

Referring to the soldiers’ detention, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey was still trying to establish whether the soldiers entered Turkey deliberately, increasing Greek fears the pair could be charged with espionage.

Panos Kammenos, Greece’s defence minister, has described the pair as “hostages” amid suspicions that Turkey deliberately snatched them to use as bargaining chips. Greece has angered Turkey by refusing to extradite eight Turkish officers who sought political asylum there following Turkey’s coup attempt in 2016.

The Greek government raised the case with both NATO and the United Nations last week, asking them to intervene to secure the soldiers release. Source

Greeks slow to read Ankara’s Aegean intentions

Greece and Cyprus have failed to respond effectively to Turkey’s latest aggressive manoeuvres in the Aegean, journalist Notis Papadopoulis wrote in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

Ankara has for months successfully stalled Greek Cypriot attempts to explore for gas in the eastern Mediterranean, whilst at the same time ramping up its rhetoric and actions regarding disputed islets off Turkey’s Aegean coast, where Turkish warplanes have been violating Greek airspace with increasing regularity, the newspaper said.

The Turkish navy intervened in January to prevent the Greek defence minister from laying a wreath in memory of Greek sailors who died in 1996 during an earlier crisis over the islets. More recently, at the beginning of the month, two Greek soldiers were arrested in Turkey after having stumbled across the border in bad weather.

All of this comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan set alarm bells ringing during a visit to Athens in December by questioning the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that delineates borders between the two countries.

Such events show that Turkey has upped its claims in the Aegean.

But Greece has not been quick in recognising Ankara’s revised intentions. The Greeks must expect Erdoğan, given his track record, to treat them with “pure disregard”, says Papadopoulis. To respond effectively Greece “must engage in a thorough diplomatic campaign reaching out to all allied governments, using evidence to expose Turkey’s big bully attitude and its ulterior motives”. Source

Turkey demands Greece arrest flag-burners – report

7 March
Turkey’s foreign ministry on Wednesday demanded that Greece arrest people who burned a Turkish flag at a rally in Athens this week.

"We strongly condemn the burning of our flag during a rally against Turkey organized by a racist political party in Athens on March 5”, the foreign ministry said in a written statement, according to  state-run Anadolu news agency.

"We demand that the Greek authorities arrest the perpetrators, who committed this heinous act against our flag, and bring them to justice as soon as possible.”

Political and military tensions between Greece and Turkey have increased in recent months after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the re-negotiation of the two countries’ borders and a Turkish patrol boat hit a Greek coastguard vessel in the Aegean. Turkey is also holding two Greek soldiers on espionage charges after they crossed its border. A Turkish court refused their release on Monday. Greece has also failed to hand over Turkish soldiers suspected of involvement in the July 2016 failed coup.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy also criticised statements regarding Turkey and its territorial integrity by Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos, Anadolu said.

“We invite President Pavlopoulos to respect international law and our borders, and to refrain from a rhetoric which is not befitting his position, and that could cause unnecessary tension,” Aksoy said.

On Tuesday, the Greek press reported Pavlopoulos as saying: "We might not have the territory that we should have had historically… If history compels us, we will do what our ancestors had done”, Anadolu said. Source

Greece to play down arrested soldiers – newspaper

6 March
The Greek government has decided to apply incremental political and diplomatic pressure in response to Turkey’s arrest last week of two Greek soldiers who crossed into Turkish territory due to bad weather, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports.

Quoting the Greek media group Skai, Kathimerini’s article on Tuesday said that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and government officials had met at the Maximos Mansion in Athens on Monday, and agreed that they should avoid escalating the situation into a major diplomatic affair.

The government will wait to evaluate their position according to the Turkish judiciary’s decisions on the case before responding, Kathimerini reported.

Meanwhile, a Turkish national of Kurdish origin has been returned to detention in a Greek prison after a court rejected Turkey’s request for his extradition.

The detainee, Naci Özpolat, was one of nine arrested by Greek intelligence last November in advance of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit in December. The nine have been charged with “setting up and belonging to a criminal organization, terrorist-related acts of supplying explosive materials, and with illegal possession of firearms, smoke bombs and firecrackers,” according to Kathimerini’s report.

Turkey accused Özpolat of links to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), a radical Marxist-Leninist organisation that is classed a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. Source

Turkey urges Greek president to refrain from making inflammatory remarks

6 March
Turkey has called on Greek President Propokopis Pavlopoulos to refrain from making inflammatory statements about Turkey that could cause unnecessary tension, while also condemning the burning of a Turkish flag at a demonstration in Athens on March 5.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy issued two separate written statements early March 7 expressing Ankara’s disturbance over recent developments in Greece.

Aksoy recalled that the Greek press quoted Pavlopoulos as saying: “We might not have the territory that we should have had historically,” and “If history compels us, we will do what our ancestors had done.”

“We invite President Pavlopoulos to respect international law and our borders, and to refrain from a rhetoric which is not befitting his position, that could cause unnecessary tension,” Aksoy said in response to the Greek president’s comments.

In a separate statement, Aksoy said a Turkish flag was burned during a rally in Athens.

“We strongly condemn the burning of our flag during a rally against Turkey organized by a racist political party in Athens on March 5,” he stressed.

“We demand the Greek authorities arrest the perpetrators who committed this heinous act against our flag and bring them to justice as soon as possible,” he added.

The move comes at a time the Greek government is urging the U.N., NATO and the European Union to put pressure on Turkey for the release of two of its soldiers who were detained on March 2 after they strayed into Turkey. Source

Greece rejects Turkey’s extradition request for DHKP-C suspect

6 March 2018

Greece rejected Turkey’s extradition request for a member of the outlawed far-leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C) on March 6 amid tension that ignited after two Greek soldiers were detained on Turkish border.

Greece’s appeals court in Athens rejected the extradition request for DHKP-C member Şadi Naci Özpolat.

The same court ruled on Feb. 2 in line with prosecutors’ suggestion, denying Ankara’s extradition request for Mehmet Doğan, another member sought, on grounds that he was recognized as a “political refugee” by French authorities.

Doğan was arrested last November in Athens along with eight more Turkish nationals, including Özpolat, and was accused of forming and participating in a terrorist organization and possessing explosives and weapons unlawfully, among other charges.

Ankara has requested the extradition of at least two of the accused.

Greece seeks EU, NATO help over soldiers detained in Turkey

Greece’s defense minister said he has complained to the European Union and NATO following the detention of two Greek soldiers in Turkey after they strayed across the border during a patrol last week.

Panos Kammenos said the two men, a lieutenant and a sergeant, were arrested a “few meters” inside Turkish territory while on a patrol against migrant smuggling. He made the remarks in Brussels on March 6 while attending a meeting of EU defense ministers.

A Turkish court in the border city of Edirne rejected a request for their provisional release.

The incident has further strained relations between the two NATO allies who have longstanding disputes over maritime boundaries and commercial rights. Source

Greece dismisses Turkish “conspiracy theory” on detained soldiers

2 March 2018

A Greek government spokesman has dismissed reports that Greece is in talks with Turkey to extradite eight Turkish officers accused of participating in the failed July 2016 coup attempt in exchange for two Greek soldiers detained on Turkish territory, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports.

The two soldiers were formally detained near the Maritsa river on Friday, after stormy weather conditions reportedly caused them to lose their way on patrol and cross the border onto Turkish territory.

Greek Chief of Staff Evangelos Apostolakis reportedly called his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, to discuss the issue.

Media sources including Sky news had speculated that Turkey could set the extradition of the eight military personnel, who took refuge in Greece after the botched coup attempt in 2016, as a condition for the Greek soldiers’ release.

Writing for the Turkish daily Hürriyet, Yorgo Kirbaki reported that the Greek media had raised questions about why a ranking lieutenant had been captured on patrol.

Greek Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos dismissed the claims as a “conspiracy theory” and “unworthy of comment,” according to Kathimerini. He said earlier on Friday that the soldiers would return shortly, once formalities had been completed. Source

2 Greek officers arrested for espionage after straying across Turkish border

2 March 2018

A court in Turkey’s northwestern province of Edirne has ordered the arrest of two Greek soldiers who the Greek army claimed “accidentally” crossed onto the Turkish side of the border, local media reported.

Turkish prosecutors had earlier demanded their arrest for military espionage and trespassing in a prohibited military zone. The court also ordered an investigation into “digital data” found in possession of the soldiers.

Lt. Aggelos Mitredotis and noncommissioned officer Dimitros Kouklatzis were detained by Turkish troops patrolling the border late on Thursday.

The Greek army earlier had issued a statement that the pair was deployed on the border and lost their way due to inclement weather and crossed to the other side of the border by mistake.

Greece expects Turkey to swiftly return the two soldiers, a government spokesman said on Friday, according to a report by Reuters.

“We are in consultation with Turkish authorities for a prompt resolution of the matter,” Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters. “Legal processes in Turkey will be put in motion swiftly, and we expect the return of the two Greeks to our country,” he said. “Yesterday’s incident was the result of a mistake. The two Greek officers diverged from their route because of the bad weather in the area and found themselves, I repeat, by mistake, in Turkish territory.”

Tzanakopoulos said that after the arrest of the two Greeks stipulated legal procedures followed. “It’s a formality and concerns a trial for illegal entry to the country which will be concluded, and we expect their return to our country,” he said.

Greece’s army command said earlier that from the first moment, Greek authorities were in contact with their Turkish counterparts and that procedures for the soldiers’ return to Greece were ongoing.

Most of the Greek-Turkish border is marked by the Maritsa River, with a fence running along much of the land section. Some parts, however, are not clearly marked, and the area where the soldiers strayed was reportedly in woodlands near the town of Kastanies.

The border is tightly monitored by both parties due to the massive refugee influx into Europe since 2015, along with terror threats.

Greece and Turkey had improved their ties after a presidential visit to Athens last year but hostilities recently re-emerged. Greece was accused of provocation by Turkey when its ships violated Turkey’s territorial waters near unmarked islands in the Aegean Sea, and Ankara has been critical of Athens since Greek courts rejected the extradition of soldiers allegedly involved in a 2016 attempted coup in Turkey.

The two countries are also at odds over Cyprus and issues related to the Muslim-Turkish and Greek Orthodox minorities in both countries. Source

Two Greek soldiers who crossed into Turkey captured: State media

2 March 2018

Two Greek soldiers who Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported as “lost” were apprehended by the Turkish security forces after they crossed into in the northwestern province of Edirne on March 2. 

The soldiers have been handed over to the 2nd Gendarmerie Command, the report stated.

“There was no fighting and [the soldiers] are currently in Edirne,” Greek military command spokesman Nikolaos Fanios told Agence France-Presse, adding that the pair are in good health.

The troops are patrolling the area around the Meriç (Evros) river that separates the two countries, Fanios said.

Poor weather conditions caused the men, who were armed, to lose their way, the report stated.

“The Greek foreign minister is currently arranging for their repatriation,” Fanios added.

Tensions have been high in recent months between Greece and Turkey, both NATO members.

Ankara’s ties with the European Union are going through a particularly rough patch, following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threat to block gas drilling in the Mediterranean around the island of Cyprus.

A Turkish boat collided with a Greek patrol boat near a disputed islet group, Kardak, in the Aegean Sea in mid-February, the second such incident in a month, prompting a protest from Athens.

In addition, eight former Turkish officers have taken refuge in Greece since the July 2016 coup attempt and Ankara is seeking their extradition, further ratcheting up the tension.

Greece, like several other European countries where Turkish officers have fled following the coup bid, has so far refused to send them back. Source

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