Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos has rejected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s offer of a swap deal between Athens and Akara of the two Greek soldiers being held in custody in exchange for the eight Turkish servicemen granted asylum status in Greece.
“An exchange of the two Greek soldiers that are jailed with the eight Turkish soldiers that are in Greece is out of the question,” said Pavlopoulos on Monday.
The response was reiterated in an official statement issued by the office of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
“Concerning references to an exchange … between the matter of the Greek soldiers and other issues, we stress once more that it is unacceptable and is rejected,” it read.
“The position of Greece, and of the EU in its entirety, is clear and consistent: We seek the immediate release of the two Greek soldiers without conditions.”
The Turkish soldiers received asylum from Greece’s Supreme Court after fleeing Turkey after the coup attempt in July 2016, denying any involvement.
Ankara has since been demanding that they be extradited to face charges in Turkey, but Greece has denied their requests, claiming the servicemen would not receive a fair trial.
Meanwhile the two Greek soldiers were charged with espionage after crossing the Turkish border, which they claim was an accident, having lost their way in the fog.
The stern response from Greece comes after the Turkish President suggested the trade-off during a national broadcast on Turkish television on Saturday.
“They asked us to give the two Greek soldiers back and we told them there are eight soldiers who tried to make a coup. First, you have to give them to us. If you give them to us, then we can put the others on the table. Because they crossed the border,” he said.
He also called for peace with Greece, following rising tensions in the Aegean and Mediterranean.
“We need peace now. Besides, our peace with you is like no other,” Erdogan said.
While not agreeing to the exchange, the statement issued by Tsipras’ office welcomed the Turkish president’s call for peace as “a positive step”.
“From the Turkish president’s statements yesterday [Saturday], we keep the positive elements. His shift towards peace in the Aegean and the support for dialogue between the two countries on important sectors, among which is security,” it read.