No transactions with Erdogan trading fate of eight Turks for Greek soldiers, says Kouvelis
The Greek government will not consent to any type of transaction with Turkey’s president that trades off the fate of the eight Turks in Greece against the return of the two Greek soldiers arrested and detained in Turkey, Alternate Defence Minister Fotis Kouvelis said on Monday.
“On no account will we enter into transactions with Erdogan on the level of trading off two different cases, the unacceptable detainment of our two troops and the case of the eight Turks,” Kouvelis said.
He noted that the recent meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras “was the only time when, even though he referred to the eight Turkish servicemen, he did not directly link these two issues.”
“My hope and the demand of the Greek government is for [the Greek soldiers’] swift return,” he added, while predicting that Erdogan would continue to follow a policy of escalating tension with Greece and continue to claim disputed territories in the Aegean and “grey zones”.
Kouvelis was referring to the two Greek soldiers arrested near the Turkish border in early March, while they were conducting a routine border patrol, and accused of illegally entering Turkish territory. The two are currently being held in Edirne Prison in Turkey and have not yet been formally charged.
The eight Turks that Erdogan wants returned are eight former members of the Turkish military that fled to Greece following the failed coup in Turkey, who requested and were granted asylum by Greek courts.
On relations with Russia following the recent incident with the expulsion of two Russian diplomats, Kouvelis admitted that the current atmosphere in relations “was not that of a few months or years ago” while noting that Athens desires good relations with Moscow.
“The government would never come to the point of expelling two Russian diplomats unless there was evidence that fully justified our actions. The expulsion of the Russian diplomats was the results of actions they took that were deeply offensive,” Kouvelis said, adding that no foreign power, including the United States, had pressed Greece into taking this step.
He also denied that Athens had come under any pressure from Russia with respect to Prespes agreement, noting that Russia was among the few countries that sped to recognised FYROM’s constitutional name in 1992.