Relations between Turkey and Greece remain strained, though small steps to overcome differences were made last week during Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias’ visit to the neighbouring country.
Kotzias met with his counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu and discussed bilateral issues, mainly the refugee wave from Syria crossing the Aegean, but also the issue of Turkish people seeking asylum in Greece to avoid being jailed by the Erdogan government.
Speaking at a joint news conference, the two Foreign Ministers addressed the issue, with Cavucoglu urging Greece to refrain from becoming a “safe haven” for those responsible for the failed coup against Recep Tayip Erdogan in July 2016.
More than 995 Turkish citizens labelled as “coup plotters” by their government have applied for asylum in Greece and the Turkish MP pointed out that a vetting process is in order to determine whether they are linked to the US-based clerk Fetullah Gulen, accused by Turkey of being the mastermind behind the failed coup.
“We would not want our neighbour Greece, with whom we are improving our ties, to be a safe haven for Gulenists,” Cavusoclu said, to which the Greek Forein Minister responded that the Greek judiciary should be respected and left to reach decisions without political interference, even if that means that these decisions will be unpleasant to any side.
The Turkish Foreign Minister also expressed his country’s dissatisfaction with Greece, for refusing to extradite eight soldiers who fled Turkey after the coup attempt.
More than 50,000 people in Turkey have been jailed pending trial after the coup and more than 150,000 have been sacked or suspended from their jobs in the military, public and private sectors, in what human rights groups and international observers deem as a move by President Erdogan to crush dissent, using the coup as a pretext.