Greece says working with Turkey to return ‘lost’ soldiers

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Greece is working with Turkey to secure the return of two Greek soldiers who lost their way as they patrolled the border and entered into Turkey by mistake, a government spokesman said Friday. “The head of the (Greek) general staff has already spoken by telephone with his Turkish counterpart. It was a good discussion. The relevant legal procedures in Turkey will commence immediately and we expect the two Greeks to return soon,” Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters.

The Greek army said the two men had lost their way in poor weather whilst patrolling the area around the Evros river that separates the two countries. “There was no fighting and (the soldiers) are currently in Edirne,” Greek military command spokesman Nikolaos Fanios told reporters, referring to a border town in northern Turkey, adding that the pair were in good health. “The Greek foreign minister is currently arranging for their repatriation,” he added.

The Turkish authorities have not yet commented. State news agency Anadolu earlier said the two Greek soldiers were being held at the Edirne gendarmerie after saying they lost their way “because of the weather conditions”. Tensions have been high in recent months between Greece and Turkey, both NATO members. Ankara’s ties with the European Union are going through a particularly rough patch, following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threat to block gas drilling in the Mediterranean around Cyprus.

A Turkish boat collided with a Greek patrol boat near a disputed islet group in the Aegean Sea in mid-February, the second such incident in a month, prompting a protest from Athens. Eight Turkish officers took refuge in Greece following the failed July 2016 coup against Erdogan, and Ankara is seeking their extradition, further ratcheting up the tension. Greece, like several other European countries where Turkish officers have fled following the coup bid, has refused to send them back after the Greek Supreme Court said they would not have a fair trial in their home country.

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