The new Turkey
Turkey - Greece relations June 2018

20-Jun-2018 9:27

February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018
19 June 2018 - Turkish court rejects to release jailed Greek soldiers

Turkish court on June 19 ruled that two Greek soldiers charged with espionage and illegally entering the country would remain in jail.

Lieutenant Aggelos Mitretodis and non-commissioned officer Dimitros Kouklatzis were detained on March 2 at a military zone in the western Turkish province of Edirne’s Pazarkule district, which hosts a border gate with Greece. 

A local court in Edirne ruled for their arrest and refused to release them in the latest hearing on March 27.

The court refused again the soldiers’ plea for release in the June 19 hearing, citing that the demanded jail sentence, which is up to five years, is too long to apply probation.

The soldiers told the prosecutors shortly after their arrest that they mistakenly crossed the border after getting lost in the fog. But according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, they have been charged with “attempted military espionage” by prosecutors as well as “entering a forbidden military zone.”

It said the two testified that they entered the Turkish side by tracking footsteps in the snow and filmed images on their mobile phones to send to higher ranking officials.

The arrest of the soldiers has strained bilateral ties between Ankara and Athens, who are already at loggerheads over the exploration of gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Source

14 June 2018 - I did not promise to extradite Turkish coup soldiers: Greek PM

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on June 13 that he did not promise to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that he would extradite eight former Turkish soldiers who fled the country a day after the July 2016 coup attempt. 

“I couldn’t have promised about this. I’m aware of the principle of separation of powers in a country like Greece. I haven’t been able to make a promise to the leader of a foreign country about a ruling that the judicial authorities would make,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Tsipras as telling Greek state television ERT.

The soldiers had arrived in Greece’s Thrace region aboard a military helicopter hours after the botched putsch two years ago. In January this year, the Greek Supreme Court ruled against extraditing the former soldiers, who were released in another ruling last week.

Turkey suspended its bilateral migrant readmission deal with Greece on June 7 in response to the court’s decision.

Speaking on the extradition of eight soldiers to Turkey, Tsipras said on June 13 that he did not promise to send them back in his meetings with Erdoğan and there could be a “misunderstanding.”

Tsipras also said Turkey had a “decisive role” in the migrant crisis and therefore “deserves to be respected in this regard.”

The Greek prime minister used more pointed words about gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which has become another point of contention in recent months.

He described Turkey’s attitude toward a drilling ship of Italian energy firm ENI, which caused a row between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, as “unacceptable.”

Touching on the detention of the two Greek soldiers in Turkey, Tsipras said they had done “everything they could in the diplomatic field” and now they had to be patient.

The Greek soldiers were remanded into custody on March 2 for entering a prohibited military zone in Turkey’s Edirne province, which borders Greece. Source

10 jUNE 2018 - Greece fears Turkey may assassinate 8 Turkish soldiers

The eight Turkish soldiers who were granted political asylum in Greece are kept heavily guarded in an undisclosed army camp as authorities fear a possible assassination attempt, the Greek Reporter said on Sunday.

The eight servicemen, who fled to Greece after the July 2016 coup attempt, have been a source of ongoing tension between Turkey and Greece, as Turkey has demanded the men to be sent back to face trial for taking part in the coup attempt, which it blames on the Islamist Gülen movement.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said late on Monday that it his government’s duty was “to find these ‘putschist’ soldiers wherever they are, pack them up and bring them to Turkey,” after Greece released the last four of eight military servicemen into protective custody.

Turkey grabbed six members of the Gulen movement in Kosovo in March in what local media dubbed as a kidnapping. Kosovan intelligence and police reportedly helped Turkey in the operation, but Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said he was not informed about the operation.

The biggest fear of Greek authorities is that the Turks may try to assassinate the eight servicemen branded in Turkey as “traitors” and “terrorists”, according to the Greek Reporter. 

The local media reported that the eight servicemen are kept in an army camp in mainland Greece under very strict security measures constantly updated based on new information. Special units of Greek police are employed on a 24-hour basis to guard the eight soldiers, while an electronic protection net has been set up in the area. Source

7 June 2018 - Turkey, Greece in fresh dispute over uninhabited islets

A new border dispute between Greece and Turkey has emerged after Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos claimed a number of uninhabited Aegean islands as Greek nature reserves, Greek newspaper Kathimerini said .

Greece says that all areas in the Aegean designated as Natura 2000 regions under an EU conservation scheme were part of its territory and part of the European Union.

Turkey responded by saying that many of these areas were grey zones and not part of Greek territory.

"These statements do not bear any legal effect,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

“Turkey, as has been the case until today, as well as hereinafter, will not accept any possible fait accompli to be presented by Greece towards the geographical formations in the Aegean Sea, the legal status of which are disputed.”

The Greek Foreign Ministry responded by saying its claim could not be disputed and recommending that Turkey focus on its EU membership bid.

"Turkey only recently officially restated its intention to stay on course for accession to the European Union,” spokesman Alexandros Yennimatas said.

“It is obvious that the first thing Turkey needs to do if it wants to succeed is to respect international law and the European acquis." 

Greece and Turkey have a number of disputes over their borders in the Aegean, most conspicuously the islets known as Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish, between the Greek island of Kalimnos and the Turkish coast. The two NATO countries almost went to war over the uninhabited rocky outcrops in 1996. Source

7 June 2018 - Turkey suspends its readmission agreement with Greece

The Turkish government has suspended the readmission agreement between Turkey and Greece following Greece’s release into protective custody of the last four of eight military servicemen that Ankara wants extradited on Monday, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced on Thursday, Dünya newspaper reported 

According to Çavuşoğlu, though the Greek government wants to solve the issue, the judiciary in Greece is under pressure from other countries in the West. 

“We have an agreement with the EU for migrants. This is being implemented. We also have a bilateral readmission agreement with Greece. At the moment we have suspended this readmission agreement,” Çavuşoğlu told to reporters.

The readmission agreement was signed in March 2016 as a bilateral deal for the migrants who are not eligible for international protection to be readmitted to Turkey after crossing into Greece. The agreement formed the basis of the refugee deal between the European Union and Turkey.

The eight Turkish men have been a source of ongoing tension between Turkey and Greece. Turkey has demanded the men be sent back to face trial for taking part in the 2016 coup attempt, which it blames on the Islamist Gülen movement.

Greece moved the soldiers out of police custody and placed them in top-secret locations under heavy police protection on Monday, while Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said the same day that Turkey would kidnap the eight soldiers and bring them back to Turkey. Source

7 June 2018 - Turkey suspends ‘migrant readmission’ deal with Greece

Turkey has suspended its bilateral migrant readmission deal with Greece in response to a decision by a Greek court to release eight former Turkish soldiers who fled the country a day after the July 2016 coup attempt, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on June 6.

 “We have a migrant deal with the EU. It is being implemented. We have a bilateral readmission deal with Greece. We have now suspended this agreement. The process is not fully over but our works towards Greece will continue,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Antalya.

 His statement was in response to a question of whether Ankara was considering sanctions against Greece following the release of these soldiers. “It is unacceptable,” the minister said.

 “Greece is under immense pressure from the west, particularly on its judiciary,” he added, underlining that the Greek government was sincerely in favor of a resolution to this problem.

 This agreement with Greece constitutes the legal backbone of the migrant deal between Turkey and the EU, which was brokered on March 18, 2016, aiming to stem the flow of irregular migrants from Turkey to the Greek islands. The deal says for every Syrian migrant sent back to Turkey from the Greek islands, one Syrian in Turkey will be resettled in the EU. Source

6 June 2018 - “If Turkey tries to kidnap its soldiers, it would be a casus belli!” – Greek politician

A politician from Greece’s governing coalition has warned that any attempts by Turkey to kidnap and forcibly extradite eight soldiers who escaped after a failed coup attempt would be considered grounds for war.

ANEL Party Deputy Chairman Panagiotis Sgouridis, whose party is part of the governing coalition, referred on television channel Skai to an incident in March in which Turkey brought back six Turkish nationals from Kosovo without going through official channels. The six were believed to belong to the Gülen movement, a religious group Turkey says carried out the July 2016 coup attempt.

“What has happened in Kosovo cannot happen in Greece,” he said. “If Turkey attempts such a thing, this is a casus belli, it cannot be anything else.”

 “If such a thing should happen,” Sgouridis said. “Of course we would go to war.”

Greek security forces have recently increased their security precautions surrounding the eight officers, newspaper Iefimerida said , following rhetoric perceived as threatening from Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdağ.

They are being kept at a safe house with security cameras and an electronic security network with a 24-hour guard of 90 policemen, including 10 snipers, the newspaper said. Source

6 June 2018 - Turkish violations of Greek airspace reflect Ankara’s anger - Kathimerini

Turkish fighter jets embarking on a barrage of overflights in the Aegean on Tuesday following Greece’s release on Monday into protective custody of the last four of eight military servicemen that Ankara wants extradited, points to Ankara’s anger about the development, Greek Kathimerini newspaper said.

The eight Turkish men have been a source of ongoing tension between Turkey and Greece. Turkey has demanded the men be sent back to face trial for taking part in the 2016 coup attempt, which it blames on the Islamist Gülen movement.

Greece alleges that on Tuesday, four Turkish F-16s entered Athens’s Flight Information Region (FIR) and conducted seven unauthorized flights over the southeastern Aegean islets of Mavra, Levitha, Kinaros and Agathonis.

The alleged violations follow Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ’s comments on Monay Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday for going back on his alleged promise to extradite the soldiers, the daily said, recalling that ‘’the Turkish Foreign Ministry yesterday accused Athens on Tuesday of becoming “a refuge for coup plotters.”

Kathimerini quotes Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy who said that Ankara is determined to ensure the return of the “traitors” so that they stand trial in Turkey:

“We have often stated that we condemn Greece’s refusal to extradite the eight traitors to Turkey who plotted [the failed coup on] July 15, 2016, as we had condemned the decision of Greek justice to free and grant asylum to the first of them.”

News emerged this week that all eight of the Turkish officers had been released into protective police custody.

Greek courts rejected Turkish extradition demands arguing the men would not receive a fair trial in Turkey. Source

5 June 2018 - Turkish Foreign Ministry calls Greece ‘a refuge for coup plotters’

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has reacted angrily to news Monday that the last four Turkish servicemen of eight who fled to Greece after a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey were released after their 18 months of maximum detention expired, with a spokesman accusing Athens of becoming “a refuge for coup plotters,” the Greek ekathimerini news website reported.

“We have often stated that we condemn Greece’s refusal to extradite the eight traitors to Turkey who plotted [the failed coup on] July 15, 2016, as we had condemned the decision of Greek justice to free and grant asylum to the first of them,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement Tuesday, adding that “we had expressed the hope that the Greek justice would not repeat the same mistakes with such unilateral decisions,” said a statement released by Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy on Monday.

“Greece has clearly become a refuge for coup plotters. It boasts being the cradle of democracy but its stance is incompatible with international law and good neighborly relations,” he said adding that Ankara would continue to pursue their extradition.

Eight Turkish soldiers who fled Turkey on the night of the coup attempt sought protection from Greece, fearing prosecution at home. Following their arrival, Greek police took them into custody.

Two of the officers have thus far been granted asylum by Greece. Source


5 June 2018 - Greece frees eight Turkish soldiers accused of coup links

A lawyer representing eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece seeking asylum after the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey says all of his clients have been freed pending a ruling on their applications.

Omiros Zelios said on June 4 that the last of his clients was released from police custody last week. All are living in a secret location under strong police protection.

Greek courts have rejected repeated Turkish demands for their extradition, to face charges of alleged participation in the coup, arguing that they would not get a fair trial in Turkey.

So far, one of the Turks has been irrevocably granted asylum - despite efforts by Greece’s government to block the decision. The others’ cases are pending.

The eight former Turkish servicemen fled to Greece a day after the July 2016 coup bid, which left 250 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured. They are accused by the Turkish authorities of involvement in the coup attempt and being members of the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, a former close ally of the government now denounced as a terrorist.

The case has been a bone of contention between the two countries, discussed during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s official visit to Greece last year.

In May, the Greek Asylum Commission granted asylum to a second Turkish coup suspect, prompting strong reaction from Ankara.

Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın described the Commission’s decision to grant asylum to the coup suspects as “grave situation.”

Two Greek soldiers were charged with espionage in Turkey after crossing over the border on March 2. They say that they lost their way in the fog.

A court in the northwestern province of Edirne on April 25 ordered the continued detention of the two Greek soldiers.

The court based its decision on digital materials found on the soldiers, their lack of a permanent residence in Turkey, and “concrete evidence” suggesting they would flee. Source