As Tsipras Heads to Turkey, Erdogan Stokes the Fires

February 3, 2019

With Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras heading for Ankara on Feb. 5, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would relentlessly hunt terrorists and is expected to again press for the return of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after a failed coup against him in July, 2016.

There were low expectations the talks would produce any breakthroughs with Erdogan continuing provocations in the Aegean, sending fighter jets to violate Greek airspace and asserting what he said was Turkey’s right to drill for oil and gas in waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus.

The best that could be hoped for, unidentified sources told Kathimerini is that the talks would lead to more substantive negotiations to build confidence and ramp down the ongoing tensions, exacerbated when Greece’s high court ruled the Turkish soldiers couldn’t be extradited because their lives would be in danger. They denied taking part in the coup.

It remained unclear whether Greece’s new Defense Minister, former Armed Forces chief Evangelos Apostolakis, was planning to attend and accept an invitation for talks by his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar.

There is more worry about about Turkish activity in the Eastern Mediterranean, which has increased in recent weeks, than about the Aegean which did not see upheaval on the anniversary of the Imia crisis for the first time in four years, the paper said.

Tsipras, during a two-day visit, was also expected to meet Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios but it wasn’t known if he would press Erdogan, who had said he wanted to turn the revered Agia Sophia church in Constantinople into a mosque, to reopen the Halki Orthodox Seminary.

The two leaders were also expected to talk about the collapsed Cyprus unity talks which Erdogan said won’t be reopened unless his demand to keep an army on the northern third Turkey seized and has occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion is agreed, along with his his insistence over the right to militarily intervene again.

Turkey’s National Security Council said that Turkey will continue to pursue suspected participants in the coup – including the eight servicemen Greece has refused to extradite, considering them to be members of the outlawed Gulen religious movement, which the government has blamed for the failed July 2016 coup attempt.


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