Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras emphasized that he directly brought up the issue of two Greek servicemen being held in Turkey, during his two-hour meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday afternoon, saying also he stressed that their now nearly four-month incarceration is a “major issue” affecting bilateral relations.
Tsipras, whose comments were again carried live by the state broadcaster for a third straight day, spoke after the end of a NATO summit in Brussels, a landmark session, given that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) received an invitation to begin accession talks with the Alliance. The latter process, in fact, is linked with the ratification of a bilateral deal between Athens and Skopje to finally resolve the “name issue” using the “Republic of North Macedonia” as a mutually accepted solution.
The Greek premier added that he also told the recently re-elected and powerful Turkish president that there should be no connection between the two detained servicemen and eight Turkish army officers – now cashiered – who have requested political asylum in Greece since 2016.
While noting that Greece does not welcome putschists from any country, he said he made it clear that Greece’s justice system is fully independent.
Beyond the continued incarceration of the two soldiers without specific charges and without a fixed court date set, Tsipras also said he presented Erdogan with data showing increased Turkish military activity and provocations in the Aegean, adding that the two men merely agreed to “reduce tension in the Aegean”.
“I reminded Mr. Erdogan of his (recent) visit to Athens, where at the time I told him that Greece will turn a page in 2018, and that it was up to Turkey to ‘turn a page’ in Greek-Turkish relations; obviously this hasn’t happened, Turkish violations continue in the Aegean,” he said.