OPINION: Athens at a Loss Over Jailed Greek Soldiers



The Greek government seems at a loss over the case of the two soldiers being held by the Turkish authorities.

Despite the fact that the government spokesman, the foreign minister, the defense minister and his deputy, and other ministers and lawmakers made reassuring statements in the media, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras remains awkwardly silent on the issue.

Normally, as soon as the incident happened, the Greek prime minister would call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and ask for the release of the junior army officers, explaining that they were simply lost and any suspicions of other activities are not grounded.

Yet, Tsipras did nothing. Not even issue a statement or a comforting message to the families of the two men.

On Tuesday, six days after the incident, Tsipras called an unofficial cabinet meeting to discuss the problem. The delay, if nothing else, shows that the Greek administration, on a political level, does not know how to approach this thorny diplomatic issue.

They seem to have chosen to ignore the problem in the hope that it will go away by itself as they have done in the past on other problems that have remained unsolved.

This problem is very delicate and it cannot be swept under the carpet. Especially after the trial of the two Greek soldiers that was scheduled for Monday was postponed.

This means that the Greek lieutenant and his sergeant colleague will remain in custody indefinitely, despite previous reassurances by the Greek government that the court verdict will be in favor of the two soldiers and that they will be free soon.

Aloof

While top military officers followed due procedure in asking Turkey to return the two soldiers, government officials have remained embarrassingly aloof throughout.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said that the problem is also an EU problem and he will take the matter to a meeting of European defense ministers in Brussels.

“The arrest of the two Greek soldiers by Turkey in a border incident, which would usually be settled in talks between local commanders, has effectively led to an impasse with Turkey, after the prosecutor’s refusal for the two soldiers to remain in the Greek consulate until their case is tried,” Kammenos said.

But shouldn’t the defense minister communicate with his Turkish counterpart and ask for the release of the two soldiers as no incriminating espionage evidence is found? The defense minister chose to avoid the issue and simply ask for EU aid.

The same applies to Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias who, instead of negotiating the matter with the Turkish foreign minister, limited himself to a lukewarm statement about international law, something which Ankara has paid little attention to for over a year now.


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