Greece returns Turkish soldiers 'lost' on border

Greece returns Turkish soldiers 'lost' on border
Greece quickly released Turkish soldiers who had mistakenly crossed into its territory.
2 min read
09 September, 2018
Erdogan visiting Greece last year (Getty)

Greece on Sunday returned to Turkey two soldiers who mistakenly crossed into its territory after getting lost on the border earlier in the day, the two armies said.

The incident near the border town of Feres comes just weeks after the release of two Greek soldiers who spent over five months in a Turkish prison after a similar case of mistaken entry in March.

"Two of our soldiers were taken by Greek patrolling officers at around 0800 GMT after they crossed into the other side of the border by mistake while carrying out their duty of tracking and preventing illegal immigrants," the Turkish army said in a statement.

"Our personnel who were taken in this incident were returned around 1530 GMT as a result of talks with Greek authorities," it said.

The Greek army said the Turkish soldiers were located near the village of Feres on the border, around 150 metres into the country.

The Greek and Turkish defence ministers also spoke on the issue, the Greek army said.

In March, the two Greek soldiers had also told Turkish prosecutors shortly after their arrest that they had mistakenly crossed the border after getting lost in the fog. 

The Greek pair had testified they entered the Turkish side by tracking footsteps in the snow and filmed images on their mobile phones to send to higher ranking officials.

But Turkish judicial authorities ordered their incarceration in a prison in Edirne to face possible attempted espionage charges in addition to entering a forbidden military zone.

The Edirne court subsequently refused several requests for their conditional release, before they were unexpectedly freed on August 15.

"In Greece, we do things differently," a defence source told AFP, commenting on the decision to release the Turkish soldiers immediately.

The long incarceration of the two Greek soldiers strained relations between the neighbours and NATO allies, with Turkey demanding that Greece hand over eight Turkish troops wanted over the July 2016 attempted coup aimed at unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"In the past, we returned Turkish soldiers who crossed a few metres into Greece whilst on patrol. I expect the Turkish president to do the same," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said at the time.