Greek government’s spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on Monday accused president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of exploiting the issue of two Greek soldiers arrested in Turkey for political reasons, reported Greek daily Kathimerini.
“Erdogan did not dare to relate the two issues directly, he attempted to indirectly counterbalance the case of the eight Turkish soldiers with that of the two Greek soldiers,” Tzanakopoulos said, referring to eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece after the coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. “I don’t think that kind of comment makes any sense as the two cases are entirely different,” he added.
On the way back from the EU-Turkey summit held on March 26 in Varna, Turkey’s president Erdoğan told the journalists accompanying him on the presidential jet that the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker requested from him the release of the two Greek soldiers. Referring to Greek courts which rejected Turkey’s application for the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece by a helicopter immediately after the failed coup attempt in 2016, Erdoğan said, “They did not give them back to us, although we asked for it. Those who were silent about this, asked for immediate release of the two Greek soldiers. ‘You are a great country, you are a great president, ensure the release of those two soldiers’, they said to me. I said ‘I am no greater than justice,’ as a response,” said Erdoğan.
On Sunday, Stavros Tzimas, the Northern Greece correspondent for the daily Kathimerini, in his commentary on the escalating tension in the Aegean, wrote that a military incident between Turkey and Greece would cause an irreparable damage on the Turkish economy.
Warning president Erdoğan “to think twice before giving an order for military action”, Tzimas noted that such an action would not be similar to “Ankara’s operation against the lightly armed Kurdish forces” in Syria and both sides would suffer losses in case of a such mini conflict.
“For what American or European tourist would want to spend their vacation on a Greek island or in a Turkish coastal resort, instead of at a destination in Italy or Spain, after seeing images of falling fighter jets or sinking gunboats,” asked Tzimas.
Tzimas also noted that the Turkish economy has already been suffering from the economic repercussions of the arrest of two Greek soldiers, since the number of Greek visitors going to Turkey has declined substantially.