14 navy ships ‘miss­ing’ at sea since foiled coup

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Some 14 Turk­ish mil­i­tary ships on ac­tive duty in the Aegean and Black Seas are re­port­edly “miss­ing”, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

It is as­sumed that their cap­tains do not wish to re­turn to port, ei­ther be­cause they sup­ported the coup, or fear the on­go­ing purges in their coun­try.

Some me­dia re­ports have spec­u­lated that the ships may be on their way to Greek ports where the sailors will at­tempt to seek asy­lum. It is un­clear how many ships are in the Black Sea and their re­spec­tive num­ber in the Aegean.

If the ships are stranded in the Black Sea, their cap­tains have lit­tle choice but to ap­ply for asy­lum in NATO mem­bers Bul­garia and Ro­ma­nia, or in prospec­tive NATO mem­bers Ukraine and Ge­or­gia, or in Rus­sia.

A rap­proche­ment be­tween Rus­sia and Turkey ap­pears to have been quickly un­fold­ing in the last few days, with the two lead­ers, Vladimir Putin and Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, ap­par­ently turn­ing the page af­ter Turk­ish forces shot down a Rus­sian bomber last Novem­ber, close to the Syr­ian border. Re­port­edly, the two lead­ers will meet “within weeks”.

“We have not seen any­thing in the Aegean Sea,” a Greek gov­ern­ment source told EurAc­tiv.com, adding that Athens is “re­ally look­ing for­ward to see­ing the sit­u­a­tion get­ting sta­bilised”.

An ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing was held on Mon­day to dis­cuss the de­vel­op­ments in Turkey with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras, De­fence Min­is­ter Panos Kam­menos, Deputy Min­is­ter of In­te­rior Nikos Toskas, the head of Greek Se­cret Ser­vices Yian­nis Roubatis, and Ad­mi­ral Evan­ge­los Apos­to­lakis.

“We closely fol­low the de­vel­op­ments but we re­main calm,” the sources added.

Ac­cord­ing to the Turk­ish daily “Star”, the eight sol­diers who fled by he­li­copter to Greece on Sat­ur­day and then asked for asy­lum, al­legedly be­long to a com­mando group that at­tempted to kill Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan.

Press re­ports in Turkey sug­gest that around 40 com­man­dos sur­rounded a ho­tel in Mar­maris, where Er­do­gan was stay­ing for va­ca­tion, with the aim to kill him. How­ever, the Turk­ish pres­i­dent man­aged to es­cape with the as­sis­tance of his per­sonal guards.

Af­ter their mis­sion failed, ac­cord­ing to the “Star” re­port, the com­man­dos moved to dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions with eight of them head­ing to­ward Greece.

How­ever, some in Athens cau­tioned that this in­for­ma­tion should be care­fully anal­ysed, as it could be an at­tempt to put ad­di­tional pres­sure on the Greek gov­ern­ment to ac­cel­er­ate the ex­tra­di­tion of fugi­tives.

Greek gov­ern­ment sources told EurAc­tiv that the ex­am­i­na­tion of the asy­lum re­quests may take up to 15 days and that the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion will take into con­sid­er­a­tion “in­ter­na­tional law and the pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights”. The same sources added that Er­do­gan’s an­nounce­ments re­gard­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of death penalty “are just mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion more com­pli­cated”.

On Sat­ur­day, the Bul­gar­ian Prime Min­is­ter Boyko Borissov said four Turk­ish ships with 350 per­son­nel were on a NATO drill in the Black Sea. But he added that the sit­u­a­tion was “calm” and that there was “noth­ing to worry about”.

A to­tal of 2,000 mil­i­tary per­son­nel from eight coun­tries are tak­ing part in Sea Shield 16. It is the largest multi­na­tional mil­i­tary drill or­gan­ised by the Ro­ma­nian Naval Forces this year. It takes place in Ro­ma­nia’s ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters and the in­ter­na­tional wa­ters of the Black Sea.

Borissov made the com­ments af­ter meet­ing with the Turk­ish am­bas­sador in Sofia. Few de­tails of the dis­cus­sion emerged, but it is be­lieved the fate of the Turk­ish ships fea­tured high on the agenda of the Ankara en­voy.

Bul­garia, which shares a 259 km land border with Turkey, and also bor­ders Turkey on the Black Sea, is vul­ner­a­ble to mi­grant waves from Turkey. It is highly un­likely that Sofia would refuse to co­op­er­ate with Ankara in cases in­volv­ing Turk­ish mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

Ad­mi­ral Vey­sel Kosele, the com­man­der of the Turk­ish navy, has been out of con­tact since the night of the failed coup. It is not known whether he was an in­sti­ga­tor of the at­tempt to oust Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan or is be­ing held hostage by col­lab­o­ra­tors on the run.

The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment had no in­for­ma­tion about Fri­day’s failed coup at­tempt un­til it was well un­der­way, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Nu­man Kur­tul­mus said on Tues­day, ap­pear­ing to con­tra­dict a pre­vi­ous state­ment from the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship.

Ear­lier, the army Gen­eral Staff said it had first re­ceived in­tel­li­gence that a coup was un­der­way at 4 pm lo­cal time on Fri­day, July 15, and that it had alerted the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties.

Sol­diers blocked two bridges in Is­tan­bul shortly be­fore 10.30 pm lo­cal time and gun­fire was heard in the cap­i­tal Ankara shortly af­ter­wards.

Kur­tul­mus also told re­porters that 9,322 peo­ple were cur­rently un­der le­gal pro­ceed­ings in re­la­tion to the at­tempted coup. He dis­missed re­ports that any naval ships had gone miss­ing since the abortive coup on Fri­day night.

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