Despite Constant Taunts, Turkey Wants Better Ties With Greece

FILE - Greece's Prime minister Alexis Tsipras, left, shakes hands with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, as he welcomes him at his office in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

At the same time that it has condemned Greece for harboring “criminals,” Turkey wants better relations with Greece, in the aftermath of releasing two Greek soldiers who had accidentally strayed across the border and were detained for more than five months.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, however, again accused Greece of providing a safe haven for Turks who fled a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July, 2016, an event that has sent hundreds of Turks seeking asylum in Greece.

They include eight Turkish soldiers who landed in northern Greece in a helicopter and are being guarded in a military camp after a Turkish official warned they could be kidnapped after Greece’s highest court barred their extradition, saying their lives would be in danger in Turkey.

Eight Turkish commandos are seeking asylum in Greece after commandeering a helicopter to flee
“The situation in our relations today is not to the benefit of our countries. Building trust is important. We should open a new chapter in our relations,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Ta Nea newspaper in an interview.

“We should continue the process of bilateral talks without any conditions. This is the way to solve our problems,” he added, without mentioning that Turkey keeps sending fighter jets to violate Greek airspace and warships past Greek islands.

He again though said the Turkish soldiers should be returned to face trial even though they denied taking part in the coup attempt and the Greek court said no evidence was presented that they had.
“The Greek justice system, contrary to the rules and the principles of the international law, is letting the culprits go unpunished and is violating the victims’ rights,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying.

“We remain determined in our effort to make sure that the fugitive coup perpetrators will be extradited and stand trial in Turkey,” he added.

Other issues are keeping the burner turned up to high between the countries, with Turkey continuing to allow human traffickers to keep sending refugees and migrant from the Middle East and Afghanistan and Iraq to Greek islands during a suspended swap deal with the European Union.

Under the 2016 deal, Turkey has to take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians, who cross to Greece illegally across the sea. In return, the EU has to take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with more money, early visa-free travel and faster progress in EU membership talks.

The refugees and migrants, some 64,000 of them, have been dumped on Greece during an economic crisis after other countries reneged on promises to take in some of the overload.

Cavusoglu said Turkey respected the deal and that the EU should now keep its promises, including granting the visa-free travel, extending a second three billion-euro tranche for the Syrian refugees and making progress on EU accession talks even though Turkey has taken back only a relative handful of refugees and migrants.

Erdogan had said that Tsipras promised him the Turkish soldiers would be quickly returned. Tsipras opposed asylum for them but said they couldn’t be extradited, citing the court order.

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