Turkey ups ante, Greece avoids es­ca­lat­ing ten­sion

Gov’t sees Er­do­gan be­hind Imia move

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The gov­ern­ment is tread­ing care­fully, aim­ing not to fur­ther es­ca­late ten­sions with Ankara af­ter a Turk­ish gun­boat car­ry­ing Chief of Gen­eral Staff Hu­lusi Akar sailed into Greek wa­ters and around the Imia islets on Sun­day.

The Turk­ish Yeni Safak con­ser­va­tive daily, known for its hard­line sup­port of Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, later re­leased images and video footage of “the new ten­sion at Imia” show­ing Akar on the gun­boat, with the islets in the back­ground.

Greek diplo­matic sources be­lieve the in­ci­dent was mas­ter­minded by Er­do­gan, who ap­pears to have taken per­son­ally the Greek jus­tice sys­tem’s de­ci­sion last week not to meet Ankara’s re­quest for the ex­tra­di­tion of eight Turk­ish of­fi­cers who fled to Greece in July.

Greece is con­cerned that Turkey’s lead­er­ship can­not fathom the fact that its re­quests for the of­fi­cers’ ex- tra­di­tion were im­pos­si­ble for the Greek courts to meet, as they were not ex­am­in­ing the acts of the of­fi­cers dur­ing the botched coup at­tempt in July, but whether they would get a fair trial in Turkey, which is also con­sid­er­ing bring­ing back the death penalty.

Of­fi­cials in Athens be­lieve the is­sue will re­main a source of friction with Er­do­gan for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

On Sun­day, the Greek mil­i­tary was put on high alert as the Turk­ish gun­boat was es­corted by sev­eral as­sault craft car­ry­ing com­man­dos, which also cir­cled the islets that brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war ex­actly 21 years ago to­day.

Greek author­i­ties re­sponded to what was viewed as an out­right Turk­ish provo­ca­tion with warn­ings, and dis­patched the Hel­lenic Navy’s Krataios gun­boat, which es­corted the Turk­ish flotilla out of Greece’s ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters.

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras is sched­uled to speak on the phone to­day with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and is ex­pected to dis­cuss Sun­day’s in­ci­dent and Ankara’s threats, is­sued by For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu last week, to scrap a bi­lat­eral deal for the read­mis­sion of mi­grants to Turkey.

Merkel is sched­uled to visit Turkey on Thurs­day and Greek author­i­ties will be keen to hear the joint state­ments of the two lead­ers in Ankara.

Er­do­gan has also crit­i­cized Merkel for not turn­ing over 40 Turk­ish mil­i­tary of­fi­cials who have asked for asy­lum in Ger­many.

Mean­while, the eight Turk­ish ser­vice­men in Greece ap­peared be­fore an Athens court yesterday to re­quest their re­lease. They say there is no rea­son for them to re­main in cus­tody af­ter Turkey’s re­quest for their ex- tra­di­tion was re­jected by Greece’s Supreme Court last week.

Ini­tially, the court or­dered their re­lease from po­lice cus­tody. How­ever, po­lice de­cided to ex­tend their de­ten­tion or­der for three months – pend­ing ex­am­i­na­tion of their asy­lum bids – cit­ing na­tional se­cu­rity.

The men ap­peared in court yesterday to ap­peal the de­ci­sion and a ver­dict is ex­pected in the next few days.

Two of eight Turk­ish mil­i­tary of­fi­cers come out of a po­lice van af­ter their ar­rival at an ad­min­is­tra­tive court in Athens, yesterday. The eight ob­jected to the de­ci­sion of the Greek state to re­main in cus­tody for three more months.

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