Turkish court releases two Greek soldiers pending trial

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Five speak on stage as they take part in a rally, organized by various groups through social media, next to the statue of Alexander the Great, in Thessaloniki, on March 25, 2018, Greek Independence Day, to call for the release of the two Greek soldiers arrested by Turkish authorities. The soldiers had been held by authorities after they entered Turkey, claiming they got lost because of the weather conditions. / AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS

A Turkish court has released two Greek soldiers, Aggelos Mitretodis and Dimitros Kouklatzis, pending trial on espionage charges in a case that has fueled tensions between the two neighboring NATO allies, Reuters reported.

Greece said the soldiers crossed into Turkey by mistake while following the trail of suspected illegal migrants. The Turkish court ordered their detention in March on suspicion of illegal entry and attempted military espionage.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday the release of two Greek soldiers in custody by Turkey was an ‘act of justice’ which would help foster closer relations between the two neighbors frequently at odds.

“The release of the two Greek officers is an act of justice which will contribute to friendship, good neighborly relations and stability in the region,” a statement from Tsipras’s office said.

The court in Edirne ruled for the continuation of their incarceration on July 17, just a few days after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO summit and had agreed to focus on efforts to reduce tensions in the Aegean.

A recent report by the Greek Kathimerini daily suggested that Qatar was willing to mediate for the release of the two Greek soldiers.

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