ATHENS – Turkey’s release of two Greek soldiers held more than five months after accidentally crossing the border in bad weather has led to restored co-operation between the countries, including an exchange of military academy graduates and sporting and cultural activities.
The tension was ratcheted down after it had simmered, especially as Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) had kept provoking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he said ordered the arrest and detention of the Greek soldiers in a bid to force Greece to return eight Turkish soldiers seeking asylum after fleeing a failed coup against the Turkish leader in July, 2016, in which they denied taking any part.
“After the latest developments and the release of the two Greek soldiers, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and the chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, decided to lift the suspension of talks … on confidence building measures with Turkey,” the ministry press release said.
That came a few days after Greek fishermen said they were being stalked in the Aegean in Greek waters by the Turkish Coast Guard and that Turkish fishing vessels twice fired at them. Turkish fighter jets had previously kept violating Greek airspace, engaging Greek pilots in mock dogfights over the seas.