Still furious that Greek courts won’t extradite eight Turkish soldiers seeking asylum after fleeing a failed coup attempt against him in July, 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suspended a migrant readmission deal and said at a pre-election rally Greece’s economy is in ruins.
He said Greece is financially “finished” and ripped credit agencies for upgrades he said weren’t warranted as the country struggles to come out from under an eight-year-long economic and austerity crisis as three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($383.56 billion) are set to expire in August.
“Our neighbors are bankrupt, they’re done and [rating agencies] have upgraded them four times,” he said, adding that Greece has “sunk and collapsed,” he said at a rally before snap June 24 polls he called in a bid to further strengthen his hand after getting near-dictatorial powers in a referendum after the coup attempt.
“Just look at the state of their roads,” he said, ridiculing Greece, without mentioning major new highways in the Peloponnese and the near-finish of the national road between Athens and the third-largest city of Patra in the west, nor other new highways built after 2000.
The Turkish soldiers denied taking part in the overthrow attempt and were released from custody after a maximum 18-month detention period but were said to be under guard in a secret location although they could be free to move on to other European Union countries.
The Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu said the Turkish Navy ordered one frigate and two gunboats to be on alert around the clock, along with a special underwater forces team because of provocations from Greece, which hasn’t made any.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the Greek government wants to return the Turkish soldiers – Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras opposes asylum for them – but is being pressured by the West.
“There is a migrant deal with the EU. This is being implemented. There is also a bilateral readmission deal with Greece. Now we have suspended this readmission deal. We will continue our work toward Greece after the final court decision,” Cavusoglu said.
“What Greece did is unacceptable,” Cavusoglu said. He suggested Turkey would consider other measures against Greece saying: “We will continue our work concerning Greece.” Both are members of NATO which said it won’t intervene to pressure Turkey not to keep sending fighter jets and warships to violate Greek airspace and waters.
Describing his comments as “unfortunate,” diplomatic sources in Athens told Kathimerini that suspension announced by Cavusoglu has already been the case since 2017 and criticized Turkey for wanting the government to override Greek courts and extradite the Turkish soldiers while Erdogan said he can’t release the Greek soldiers because he can’t interfere with the Turkish judicial system.
Cavusoglu told reporters that the readmission agreement with Greece had been halted, although a separate migrant deal reached with the European Union was still in place although it too has been suspended because Greece can’t deal with the number of asylum applications from refugees and migrants on Greek islands sent there by human traffickers Turkey keeps letting operate.