EU’s Juncker says Turkey must release 2 Greek soldiers

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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. AFP Photo

Turkey must release two Greek soldiers detained in March on Turkish territory, EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said on Thursday during a visit to Athens.

A court in northwestern Turkey on Wednesday ordered a continuation of the detention of two Greek soldiers who “inadvertently” strayed across the countries’ border last month. The Edirne 2nd Criminal Court of Peace ruled against a petition by the soldiers’ lawyers to release them from remand.

Later on April 25, the soldiers’ lawyers appealed to the Edirne 1st Criminal Court of Peace. After hearing their arguments, the court rejected their appeal and decided to continue the detention of Lt. Aggelos Mitredotis and noncommissioned officer Dimitros Kouklatzis.

The court based its decision on digital materials found on the soldiers, their lack of permanent residence in Turkey and “concrete evidence” suggesting they would flee.

The Greek soldiers were remanded in custody on March 2 for entering a prohibited military zone in Edirne, which borders Greece.

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday that Greece was remaining calm in the face of “dangerous provocations” from Turkey. Tsipras, who was hosting EU Commission President Juncker, said Greece could play a central part in elevating the role of the 28-member bloc into a force for peace and security.

“We are proving that by being decisive and also calm in dealing with dangerous provocations in the Aegean by Turkey towards our sovereign rights,” Tsipras said.

The two NATO partners have long been at odds over issues ranging from airspace over the Aegean Sea to mineral rights in the same region, and ethnically split Cyprus.

Rhetoric between the two has recently sharpened after the arrest of two Greek soldiers by Turkey and Greece’s refusal to hand over eight Turkish commandos who fled to the country in the wake of an abortive coup against Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan in July 2016.

(Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])

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