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DIPLOMACY >Turkey blasts Greece for releasing coup soldiers

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Ankara will take “necessary steps” against Athens after a Greek court ruled not to extradite Turkish soldiers accused of involvement in last year’s July 15 coup attempt, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Jan. 27.

“There is a migration deal we signed, including a readmission deal with Greece, and we are evaluating what we can do, including the cancellation of the readmission deal with Greece,” he said in an interview with TRT Haber.

Çavuşoğlu’s remarks came after the Supreme Court of Greece refused on Jan. 26 to extradite eight Turkish soldiers who sought political asylum after the failed coup.  

“We gave Greece all the necessary documents, evidence and everything. We demanded that the eight soldiers be tried again. This is a political decision. Now Greece is in a position protecting and hosting coup plotters and terrorists. It also possessed terrorists like the DHKP-C and the PKK. It is also known that there are some DHKP-C camps in Greece.” the minister said,” in reference to two outlawed groups, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The soldiers, including two majors, flew helicopters to Alexandroupolis on July 16, 2016, prompting the Greek authorities to begin legal and diplomatic proceedings on charges of illegal entry into the country. “Greece condemned the coup attempt in Turkey on the very first day and the perpetrators are not welcome in the country,” said the Greek Prime Ministry in a written statement. “However, the Greek judiciary is independent. The rulings are respected and binding,” it said. The two countries play an important role in the handling of Europe’s worst migration crisis in decades, and the EU depends on Ankara to enforce a deal to stem mass migration to Europe. 

Turkey agreed to take back all migrants landing in Greece as of March 20, while the EU would take back the same amount of Syrian refugees from Turkey. Turkey agreed with the EU to take back all migrants and refugees who cross to Greece illegally in exchange for financial aid, visa-free travel for Turks, and “accelerated” EU membership talks. However, the future of the deal hangs by a thread due to a dispute between Turkey and the EU over the latter’s pressure on Ankara to change its anti-terror law. Ankara insists such a change is not possible as the PKK and the Islamic State of Iraq an the Levant (ISIL) are carrying out bloody attacks, and the danger exposed by the coup plotters continue. The deal helped brake a massive human influx, especially from Syria, that became a hot political and social issue in Europe. There is also an existing agreement between Ankara and Athens on the readmission to Turkey of illegal migrants.  

The minister was referring to that mutual deal. In late July, a local Greek court sentenced the eight soldiers to twomonth suspended prison terms for illegally entering the country. The case was then taken to the Greek top court after previous decisions to extradite three soldiers and not extradite the other five were contested. 
The soldiers, who had previously stated that their life would be in jeopardy once extradited, will now await decisions on their asylum requests in the country. Ankara has repeatedly demanded the swift extradition of the soldiers and the case had exposed often tense relations between Greece and Turkey, NATO allies at odds over issues from Cyprus to islets and air rights over the Aegean. Turkey sent second extradition request to Greece on Jan. 27, calling for the repatriation of the fugitive soldiers, a Justice Ministry official said.      

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, did not explain how a second request would help nullify  the Greek court’s decision.

January/27/2017

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