Turkey, Kammenos Still Jousting Over Detained Greek Soldiers

FILE - In this handout photo provided by the Greek Ministry of Defense, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, center, speaks with Greek soldiers as he attends a reservist exercise on the eastern island of Ikaria, Greece, Wednesday, April 4, 2018. (Greek Defense Ministry via AP)

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos’ claims that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the arrest and detention of two Greek soldiers who accidentally crossed the border in bad weather on March 1 have drawn a sharp rebuke from that country’s Foreign Ministery.

In a statement, the ministry said the comment “illustrates (Kammenos’) irresponsible and unfriendly behavior,” as he continued to provoke Erdogan after saying the Greek soldiers were hostages being kept to force Greece to return eight Turkish soldiers seeking asylum after fleeing a failed coup against the Turkish leader in July, 2016.

The ministry said that the reasons for the continued detention of the two soldiers – a Lieutenant and a Sergeant – have already been explained to the Greek authorities but there was no word from the Greek side.

Turkey’s ministry said that Greece should stop trying to keep pushing for return of the detained soldiers who haven’t been charged, saying the “meaningless and unfounded allegations” are mean to distract attention from not returning the Turkish soldiers, whose extradition was barred by Greece’s highest court which said their lives could be in danger.

Speaking to Real FM radio earlier, Kammenos, leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the coalition of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA, said the Greek soldiers were arrested as bargaining chips.

“I do not think this was a random act. They found an opportunity on a night with snow to put their plan into action,” he said.