Greek PM demands EU support for release of Greek soldiers detained in Turkey

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

Greece will continue its bilateral efforts to secure the release of two Greek soldiers detained in Turkey but is also counting on the support of its European allies, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday.

The two soldiers were arrested this month after crossing the border into Turkey in bad weather. Greece says the incident was the result of “a mistake” and has asked for their quick return.

According to a report by Reuters, Tsipras, speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, said he had assurances from the heads of the EU Commission and EU Council that the issue would be raised with autocratic Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan during talks in Bulgaria next week.

“We will continue our efforts through bilateral channels, but at the same time, we count on the official and open mobilization of our partners, our allies,” Tsipras said.

“We will remain focused on our effort to extend a hand of dialogue, a hand of friendship towards our neighboring country. We want cooperation, dialogue, peace,” Tsipras said.

EU member states expressed concern over the continued detention of EU citizens in Turkey, including the two Greek soldiers, and called for a “swift and positive” resolution of these issues.

The soldiers’ case has heightened tension between Greece and Turkey, NATO allies who came close to war as recently as 1996. They have seen renewed diplomatic strain over natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean and the fate of eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece after a controversial military coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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