As Tsipras visits, Turkey sets bounty for officers who fled to Greece

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Turkish officers are escorted by Greek special police forces as they leave the Greek Supreme Court in Athens, after a hearing concerning a possible extradition of the officers over July's failed coup in Turkey, on January 23, 2017 in Athens. The case involves eight Turkish military officers who arrived in the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis on the same helicopter in July 16, 2017, a day after a botched coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Since the coup, many Turkish military officers have requested asylum in other NATO countries. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS

A two-day visit by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Turkey got off to a shaky start Tuesday after Turkey put up bounties for the capture of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece following a failed coup in 2016, The Associated Press reported.

Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are set to discuss an array of subjects that have strained relations between the two NATO allies, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Also expected to be on the agenda is a possible new peace effort for divided Cyprus, which is split between Greek and Turkish ethnic lines. Another round of peace talks to reunify the island failed in 2017.

Even before Tsipras set foot in the country, the state-run Anadolu news agency said the Turkish Interior Ministry had added 74 officers on a list of people wanted for their alleged role in the coup attempt — including the eight servicemen who fled to Greece.

Turkey is offering 4 million Turkish lira (some $770,000) for the capture of each of the eight servicemen, the agency reported.

Turkey has been irritated by Greek courts’ decision not to extradite the servicemen who fled to Greece in a military helicopter soon after the coup attempt failed. They have denied involvement.

Shortly after his arrival, Tsipras tweeted that his visit was an opportunity to “pick up the thread of an honest dialogue for the restarting of our positive agenda, for the benefit of our people and the wider region.”

In Greece, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, an opposition lawmaker with the New Democracy party who is responsible for foreign affairs, accused Turkey of “a new provocative move” to undermine Tsipras’ visit.

“It has placed a bounty on the eight Turkish servicemen, disregarding the final decisions of the independent Greek justice system which has granted them asylum,” he said.

On Wednesday, Tsipras will visit an Orthodox theological seminary on an island off Istanbul, becoming the first serving Greek prime minister to do so. The seminary, which trained Orthodox Church leaders, has been closed since 1971, despite calls on the Turkish government to reopen it.

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