With eight Turkish soldiers who fled a failed coup against him seeking asylum in Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the two-year anniversary of the event to warn he would not forget those who tried to depose and kill him.
The soldiers who took a helicopter to northern Greece said they were fleeing for their lives and hadn’t taken part in the coup attempt. Three have been given asylum over the objections of Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras who Erdogan said promised him all eight would be returned to face charges before Greece’s highest court barred extradition, saying their lives would be in danger.
The Turkish Premier is keeping hostage two Greek soldiers who accidentally crossed the border while in patrol in bad weather on March 1 and essentially said they are bargaining chips to force the return of the Turkish soldiers, who are under heavy guard at a military barracks after some Turkish officials close to Erdogan said they could be kidnapped and returned against their will.
In a speech to a large crowd marking the second Erdogan declared that he would “never forget those who embraced the coup-plotters” in an apparent dig at Greece, said Kathimerini.
“I say it clearly, we know who took what stance and when they did so,” the Turkish leader told a crowd on the banks of the Bosphorus on July 15. “And we have realized who is cooperating with whom,” he said, after earlier ranting that the soldiers in Greece joined the coup attempt.
“The coup showed us who are our friends at difficult times,” he said, adding “we have a good memory. “We might not keep talking about what happened but we will never forget,” he said, adding that “it showed us hypocrisy,” in an apparent shot at Tsipras.
He added that Turkish authorities would continue “without rest” their struggle both inside Turkey and abroad, with an exiled Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen, blamed for the coup attempt.
According to Turkey’s state news agency Anatolia, more than 1,600 people have been given life in prison for their perceived role in the coup while more than 140,000 civil servants have been suspended or dismissed and the military purged of top leaders.
NATO, to which both countries belong, has said nothing about the tensions between them nor about Turkey keeping hostage the Greek soldiers, who are also soldiers of the defense alliance.
Turkey appreciates Tsipras’ efforts, Turkish Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kal?n said. “Tsipras is well-intentioned. We conducted long and extensive meetings on the extradition issue. These were constructive meetings but when we look into the case, unfortunately we see that the Greek judicial system has been moving in the past two years toward the direction of releasing the eight soldiers,” Kal?n stated in a press conference, said Hurriyet Daily News.
“This is a source of concern for us. We are expecting (Greece) to take steps that will not make coup plotters happy,” Kal?n added.
People wave Turkish flags during a commemoration event for the second anniversary of a botched coup attempt, in Istanbul, Sunday, July 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)