Greek intelligence warned Turkey a few hours before 2016 coup attempt: ex-minister

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Evangelos Apostolakis

Greek intelligence had information that a military putsch was about to get underway a few hours before the July 2016 coup attempt, and the head of the Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP) informed Turkey’s then-Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar, who told them he had not heard about it, Evangelos Apostolakis, the then-Greek defense minister, has claimed.

As the coup attempt was unfolding, the former minister said he tried to contact his Turkish counterpart but the phones were down, the Kathimerini daily reported.

“We were monitoring [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s movements, we knew he was in a hotel and at some point we saw an airplane going to pick him up,” he continued in a recent interview with Greek broadcaster Mega on Wednesday.

Apostolakis, a former Greek armed forces chief, also refused to clarify whether Greece was ready to send a helicopter to help Erdoğan, if that was deemed necessary.

“I can neither confirm nor deny it. An attempt was made to communicate if something needed to be done. I think we maintained a very good stance on the issue,” he responded.

Following the abortive putsch, the biggest issue between Turkey and Greece was extradition of eight Turkish officers who landed in a military helicopter in Alexandroupoli on the night of the coup.

Greece was ready to send the officers back, but no communication could be established with the Turkish side, Apostolakis said.

“Even when the helicopter with the eight [servicemen] landed, an attempt was made to return the helicopter, but communications [with Turkey] were lost,” he said.

“When the helicopter landed, I tried to contact Akar, because the matter would have been closed much more smoothly.”

When communications were restored and Akar finally asked Apostolakis to extradite the Turkish officers, “the situation had developed, they [the officers] had been arrested, they had entered the asylum procedure, Justice had been involved, there was no way to do anything.”

“The point was, at that moment, before they were accepted, to have had some communication so as to do what had to be done,” the minister explained.

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