Only days after calling snap elections, Turkey’s president Erdoğan raised the prospect of an exchange deal, saying Ankara could return two Greek border guards detained in Turkey since March if Athens extradited the eight officers who were granted asylum in Greece first. “If they are handed to us, we will consider [Greece’s request],” the leader told NTV channel at the weekend, linking the two cases for the first time.
He insisted that the Turkish servicemen had fled to Greece after participating in Turkey’s failed coup in July 2016. Despite rising tensions between the two nations, Turkey wanted good relations with its neighbour, Erdogan claimed.
On Sunday, the Greek president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, rejected the offer out of hand while Athens’ defence minister, Panos Kammenos, said it provided further proof that the two men were being held as “hostages”.
The Greek president described the idea of an exchange as “inconceivable”.
Last Thursday an overwhelming majority of 607 MEPs in the European Parliament plenary has passed a motion calling on Turkey to swiftly conclude the judicial process and release of the two Greek soldiers held in a high security Turkish prison.