After meeting Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish journalists he’d show good will but still won’t release two Greek soldiers who’ve been detained since accidentally crossing the border on July 1.
Erdogan had already said the men were essentially hostages being used to force Greece to return eight Turish soldiers seeking asylum after fleeing a failed coup against him in July, 2016 in which they said they didn’t take part.
Greece’s highest court has barred their extradition, saying their lives would be in danger as Erdogan, in the aftermath of the attempt to overthrow him, has purged civil society and the military and said he’d like to bring back the death penalty, which is forbidden in the European Union he wants his country to join.
“Everyone knows our determination to fight the Gulenists. Mr Tsipras knows it too. I explained to him our insistence on the release of the eight putschists that escaped to Greece,” Erdogan told journalists according to SKAI TV, referring to Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania who the Turkish leader said is being efforts to take him out of power.
Erdogan said that Tsipras – who the Turkish leader earlier had said promised him the Turkish soldiers would be quickly returned – was being insistent about the two Greek soldiers Erdogan said “violated the border in Edirne,” the Turkish city where they are being held jail.
It was noted in Greece that he only referred to a violation of the border. “In order to sort out these issues, we agreed to make an effort in good faith,” he said.
The Turkish leader was also reportedly raised his demands that muftis assigned to the Muslim minority in Greece’s Thrace region be elected by the faithful, instead of being appointed by the Greek state, restoration of an Ottoman era mosque in downtown Athens, and the long-standing Cyprus issue.