Qatar Offers Aid for Release of Two Greek Soldiers from Turkey

FILE - Turkish paramilitary police officers escort Greek soldiers Aggelos Mitretodis and Dimitros Kouklatzis in Edirne, Turkey, Friday, March 2, 2018. (DHA-Depo Photos via AP)

Qatar has offered to mediate for the release of two Greek soldiers jailed in Turkey since accidentally crossing the border during bad weather on March 1, as they are being held as apparent hostages to force Greece to return eight Turkish soldiers seeking asylum after fleeing a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July, 2016.

Qatari Deputy Premier Khalid Al Attiyah, who is also the Defense Minister, made the offer in a statement after his talks with Defense Minister Panos Kammenos in a visit to Greece’s Capital but there was no indication it was accepted although Qatar has ties with Turkey.

Kammenos has been an antagonist of Erdogan and said the Turkish leader ordered the arrest of the Greek soldiers as bargaining chips to make Greece return the Turkish soldiers, who said they didn’t take part in the coup attempt and whose extradition has been barred by Greece’s highest court which said their lives could be in danger.

Erdogan purged civil society and the military in the wake of the bid to overthrow him and said he’d like the return of the death penalty which is barred in the European Union he wants his country to join.

Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras opposes asylum for the Turkish soldiers, who are being kept in protective custody in a miltary camp, surrounded by squads of Greek riot police after a Turkish official warned his country could try to kidnap them.