Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have linked the fate of the two Greek soldiers being held in a Turkish prison with the eight former Turkish servicemen seeking political asylum in Greece.
On his return from an EU-Turkey summit that took place at the Bulgarian city of Varna on Monday, Erdogan claimed he told the EU representatives that “it is not fair to be concerned only by the Greek soldiers and not be concerned about the Turkish soldiers”.
Ankara demands that the Turkish soldiers are handed over for their alleged involvement in the 2016 coup attempt.
Although Erdogan said that Turkey does not link the two cases, correspondents say his statement is the first clear attempt to correlate the two.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet quotes Erdogan as saying that at the summit he explained to the EU leadership that the matter of the Greek soldiers is in the hands of justice.
He revealed that EU leaders appealed to him for their release: “You are a great country, a powerful president, make sure the two soldiers are released.”
Erdogan said he replied: “I’m no bigger than justice.”
“The matter is in trial, we have to wait for the decision of the judiciary,” he claimed to have told EU leaders, before adding meaningfully:
“Of course, I explained to them that it is not fair that those who are concerned about the two Greek soldiers have not shown [similar] concern about the Turkish soldiers who, after being involved in a coup in Turkey, then fled to Greece.
“Of course, we do not associate the two issues. But those who organized a coup in Turkey are still in Greece,” the Turkish president said.
“They did not return the soldiers when we asked…Those who are now pressing for the release of the Greek soldiers, were silent then,” Erdogan added.