Govt spox: Case of 2 detained servicemen shoulld not lead to 'diplomatic thriller' with Turkey; Mitsotakis reaction

Tuesday, 06 March 2018 13:36

A Greek government spokesman on Tuesday expressed a view that the case of two Greek servicemen being held by Turkish authorities, after allegedly straying across a land border between the two countries last week, will not lead to a "diplomatic or political thriller".

Nevertheless, spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos added that he cannot make "certain forecasts" over the issue.

"We view that this case will not lead to an unending diplomatic thriller," he said, speaking to an Athens-area television station, while adding that his government is using all the diplomatic means at its disposal to resolve the issue.

Asked if the Tsipras government has requested mediation in the case, he said at this phase "we must respect the judicial process underway in Turkey ... We know that the Greek officers (a lieutenant and NCO) are charged with illegal entry into a military zone ... whatever must be done by the Greek government will be done," he said.

Again when pressed, he said that if necessary, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will speak with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the issue.

Speaking later in the day from the eastern Aegean island of Symi, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis charged that the government underestimated the gravity of the incident and increasing Turkish provocations. 

Mitsotakis said the continued incarceration of the two servicemen by Turkey - an often problematic NATO ally - is unacceptable, underlining that such incidents in the past were resolved very quickly.

The murky incident generated coverage by German media this week as well, with an extensive Handelsblatt dispatch from Athens assessing that the case could lead to even higher tensions between the two countries. The German newspaper also referred to the prospect of Turkish leadership using the two detained men as "bargaining chips".

Along the same lines, Berlin's Tageszeitung reported that Turkey may try to use the case of the two Greek servicemen in order to pressure Athens to hand over eight Turkish military personnel that fled to Greece aboard a helicopter in the wake of a botched coup in the neighboring country in July 2016.