Qatar is willing to mediate for the release of two Greek soldiers who have been in custody in Turkey since March after accidentally crossing the border between the two countries, the emirate’s defense minister has told his Greek counterpart, according to the Greek Kathimerini daily.
Khalid Al Attiyah, who also holds the post of deputy premier, made the offer in a statement after talks with Defense Minister Panos Kammenos in Athens.
Kammenos thanked his Qatari counterpart for the offer, noting the extent of the emirate’s relations with Turkey.
The case of the two soldiers has escalated tensions between neighboring NATO allies Greece and Turkey.
The soldiers were arrested on charges of military espionage and trespassing in a prohibited military zone by a court in northwestern Edirne province. The court has refused four times an appeal by their lawyers to release them pending trial.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras raised his concerns at a NATO summit in Brussels in July, calling it “an open wound” for the Alliance, and had a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during which he raised the issue.
“Erdoğan, in response, raised the issue of the eight Turkish servicemen who Ankara wants extradited for their alleged role in the coup attempt in 2016,” the premier said.
The eight Turkish soldiers were under administrative custody for 11 months after flying to Greece in a military helicopter hours after the 2016 Turkish coup attempt. Greek authorities granted political asylum to all of them in July, and they have since been moved to secret locations to ensure their safety.