Turkish FM says doesn’t want Greece to become ‘safe haven’ for coup plotters

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ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 24: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias (L) shake hands as they pose for a photo during their meeting in Ankara, Turkey on October 24, 2017. AFP

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday that Turkey does not want Greece to be a “safe haven” for plotters of last year’s coup attempt, citing the 995 people who have applied for asylum there since the putsch.

Speaking during a joint press conference with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias, in Ankara on Tuesday, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey was disappointed with Greek authorities for not extraditing people who sought asylum in Greece after fleeing Turkey over alleged ties to the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government accuses of being behind the failed coup.

We would not want our neighbor Greece, with whom we are improving our ties, to be a safe haven for Gulenists. We believe these applications will be evaluated meticulously and that traitors will not be given credit,” Çavuşoğlu said, according to Reuters.

Kotzias, responding to Çavuşoğlu’s comments, said the decisions on asylum seekers were made by the Greek judiciary and had to be respected even if “it doesn’t please some.”

Relations between Turkey and Greece were further strained last May after a Greek court ruled to not extradite eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece following last year’s coup attempt.

Unfortunately, the Greek courts did not extradite [the eight soldiers], and this has greatly disappointed us,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Turkey alleges the men, who fled to Greece in a military helicopter as the July coup unfolded, were involved in efforts to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and has repeatedly demanded they be sent back.

Greek courts have blocked two extradition requests by Ankara, drawing an angry rebuke from Turkey and highlighting the tense relations between the NATO allies, who remain at odds over issues from territorial disputes to ethnically split Cyprus.

Rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies have said President Erdoğan is using the failed coup as a pretext to crush dissent, but the government says the measures are necessary to fight the threats it is facing.

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