Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Greece on Tuesday to cooperate in the repatriation of eight soldiers who fled to Greece following a 2016 coup attempt.
Erdogan made the remarks in a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Ankara, after a two-hour meeting at the Presidential Palace.
“Those who have fled should not be given refuge in Greece. Greece should not protect FETÖ, PKK and DHKP-C fugitives from Turkey,” Erdogan declared.
For his part, Tsipras reminded Erdogan that he was one of the first foreign leaders to call him on the night of the coup, July 15th, 2016. He added that Greece condemns attempts to undermine democracy.
“We must accept that the Greek judicial system is independent,” he said, referring to the decision of the courts to offer asylum to the eight former Turkish officers.
Earlier on Tuesday, Turkey updated a list of former military officers wanted for their alleged role in a 2016 coup attempt to include the eight officers who have been granted asylum in Greece. The Turkish state put a bounty of 4 million Turkish lira ($770,446) on the return of each man.
Despite the frosty remarks, both leaders later vowed to improve bilateral relations.
Tsipras said that frequent face-to face talks with the the Turkish President could become the starting point to improve bilateral relations in the fields of security, economic cooperation and terrorism.
“Turkey wants to develop relations with Greece on every level; channels of communication must be kept open,” Erdogan agreed.
The Turkish leader emphasized the need for strengthening economic links, adding that bilateral trade “is far below our targets.”
Later today, Tsipras will be the honored guest at an official state dinner given by Erdogan. Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has also been invited, marking the first time Ankara has invited an Ecumenical Patriarch to an official dinner in honor of a Greek prime minister.
On Wednesday, the Greek Prime Minister will visit Istanbul, where he will tour Hagia Sophia.
Later on Wednesday, Tsipras is expected to visit the Theological School of Halki, where he will have a meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch. He will become the first Greek prime minister to formally visit the Halki Theological School since 1933, when Eleftherios Venizelos visited the school as a former prime minister.
Tsipras will fly back to Athens on Wednesday evening after meeting representatives of the Greek community of Istanbul at the Sismanoglio Megaron, where the General Consulate of Greece is housed.
Tsipras has been accompanied by his wife Peristera Baziana on the trip to Turkey, and she held a meeting today with Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan at the Presidential Palace in Ankara.