By Erkan Avci
Turkey’s foreign minister Saturday slammed Greece’s refusal to extradite eight former soldiers allegedly involved in the July 2016 defeated coup in Turkey, which left at least 248 people martyred and injured some 2,200.
“Greece preventing the traitors from being prosecuted for their crimes is not in line with good-neighborly, friendly relations,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Anadolu Agency.
The number of Turkish citizens who have illegally entered Greece since the July 15 defeated coup now stands at 100, including the eight ex-soldiers who fled there in a stolen helicopter hours after the coup bid and requested asylum.
Ankara has repeatedly requested the extradition of the eight men, promising they would get fair trials. But on Jan. 26 the Greek Supreme Court ruled against their extradition.
“Unfortunately this attitude is no surprise to us. The PKK's head who is now in prison was hidden by Greece too,” Cavusoglu added, referring to the terrorist group’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who was caught and jailed in 1999.
More than 1,200 people, including security force personnel and civilians, have lost their lives since the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and EU -- resumed its decades-old armed campaign in July 2015.
On Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias’ remarks that Turkish “general staff chief couldn’t set foot on the Kardak [islets] even if he wanted to,” Cavusoglu said: “If his duty was to do so, he would have done it. Let’s not forget that we set foot on the places we were supposed to. Our stance on Kardak is clear.”
The uninhabited Aegean islets of Kardak (Imia) brought Turkey and Greece to the brink of armed conflict in 1996 and led to renewed tensions this year.
On Jan. 29, Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar visited the islets.
Responding to the Greek parliament’s decision to hold an annual decision honoring "Enosis," or the idea of Cyprus becoming part of Greece – which last week led the Greek Cypriot leader to walk out of a meeting with Turkish Cyprus’ president -- Cavusoglu said the dream of linking Cyprus to Greece has been at the root of Cyprus’ troubles since 1960.
"Behind all the suffering and bloodshed lies Enosis and the actions of people dreaming of Enosis. So the efforts of [Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos] Kotzias to paint this issue as insignificant by saying Turkey is making excuses for recent developments on the island to maintain its military presence in the country is a lie and evidence of the mentality it represents in Greece's solution negotiations.”
The eastern Mediterranean island was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after an Enosis-inspired 1974 military coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turkish population, and the subsequent interventionof Turkey as a guarantor power.
The reunification talks -- brokered by UN Special Cyprus Envoy Espen Barth Eide -- were launched in May 2015 to discuss a permanent settlement for the divided Mediterranean island.
However, the talks stalled over the Greek Cypriot parliament’s recent vote to introduce a yearly school commemoration of a 1950 referendum in which Greek Cypriots voted overwhelmingly for Athens to take over the island, or Enosis (Union).
The Cypriot issue remains unsolved despite a series of discussions which resumed in May 2015.