Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias was in the western Turkey port city of Izmir on Tuesday for the inauguration of Greece's newly renovated consulate building, using the occasion and the presence of Turkish media to bluntly state that Athens "does not host terrorists".
His comment came with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu by his side, and in response to press queries over the fate of eight Turkish army servicemen (subsequently cashiered) that fled to Greece aboard a military helicopter and eventually received political asylum by the courts.
The Erdogan-dominated government in Ankara and Turkish judicial authorities have repeatedly, and often menacingly, claimed that the eight men were participants in the failed July 2016 coup in the neighboring country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his ruling party and supporters directly put the blame for the coup attempt on the Gulenist network.
Kotzias emphasized that the independent judiciary in Greece operates on the rule of law and international law, in deflecting standing Turkish criticism over successive rulings by Greek courts and judicial councils to accept the eight Turks' legal arguments and pleas - first in blocking their extradition to Turkey, then in granting them political asylum and the right to acquire travel documents.
He added that the principles of rule of law and international law are what Athens believes bilateral relations and a common future course within Europe are based on.
In bid to "sweeten" the "bitterness" entailed with the case of the eight asylum-seeking Turkish servicemen, Kotzias reiterated that Greece favors a lifting of the visa requirement for Turkish citizens traveling to the EU and also considers that full Union membership for Turkey would be very advantageous for Greece.