Two Greek soldiers arrested in Turkey
Turkey arrested two Greek soldiers on patrol who allegedly entered a Turkish military zone along the border between the two countries on Friday, AP reported.
Athens said the two soldiers accidentally strayed into Turkey because of bad weather – heavy snow and fog had been reported in the area. A court in the northwestern Turkish city of Edirne ordered the soldiers to be arrested following questioning.
A river separates most of the Turkish-Greek land border, and fencing also runs along it, but some areas aren’t clearly demarcated.
The Greek soldiers – a lieutenant and a sergeant – reportedly followed footsteps in the snow that mistakenly led them into Turkish territory.
Earlier in the day, the Greek army said it was in talks with Turkish officials to repatriate the soldiers. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was “closely following” developments and in “constant contact” with the Greek defence and foreign ministers.
In recent weeks, Greek and Turkish relations have been strained over a series of territorial and offshore gas disputes.
On 13 February, a Turkish vessel collided with a stationary Greek coastguard boat off of the contested Imia islets that both countries claim territorial rights to.
The collision followed rising tensions after Turkey deployed warships to block a drilling rig off the Cypriot coast.
Ankara insists that any drilling ignores Turkish Cypriot rights to the island’s resources. The Greek Cypriot administration has said that any resources would be equitably shared following unification between the majority-Greek Republic of Cyprus and the Northern Turkish Republic of Cyprus.
Meanwhile, Ankara has also been angered by a recent Greek court decision not to extradite eight Turkish nationals who fled the country following the 2016 failed coup attempt. Greek courts ruled they would be at risk of not receiving a fair trial.
Turkey has arrested 50,000 people since the 2016 coup attempt, and fired more than 110,000 people from state jobs.
Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos characterised the arrests as a “pure formality”.
“I have heard various scenarios since this morning about possible negotiations the Greek government could enter with Turkey on possible exchanges. These are spy and conspiracy scenarios that do not merit omment,” Tzanakopoulos said.
“We are in communication with Turkish authorities to swiftly settle the issue,” he added.