A swift return of the eight from Greece will be 'very positive' for bilateral relations, Turkish ambassador says / Athens News Agency
Public opinion in Turkey was closely following the case of the eight Turkish soldiers that fled to Greece after a failed coup attempt, Turkish Ambassador in Athens Kerim Uras said in a press briefing on Tuesday. A swift resolution that returned them to Turkey "would be very positive" for bilateral relations but the opposite case "would not help at all," he said.
Briefing reporters on events in the aftermath of the failed coup, said it was a "historic and extraordinary" time in the neighbouring country, while thanking friendly peoples and governments for their support.
He especially mentioned the stance adopted by Greece, noting that "we are touched by the support and sympathy that we received from the Greek people," and also from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, noting that both had voiced their support from early hours of the coup attempt.
"This is very significant, since after the events have unfolded it is easy to give support but while they are underway this support was very valuable for us," he added.
Uras said the coup had only limited support within a small section of the Turkish military and also outlined the reasons why it had failed, emphasising the reaction of the people, the presence of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the role of the media.
Regarding the helicopter with the eight Turkish military personnel that fled to Greece and landed in Alexandroupolis airport, the ambassador said the decision to give landing permission had been a "mistake to begin with". Given that everyone knew what was happening in Turkey, he pointed out, it was clear that they were escaping from the law and had participated in the criminal action that was underway, "so there was a high probability that they were terrorists fleeing justice."
While international aviation rules required that landing permission be given in response to a distress call from an aeroplane, which requires a runway to land, the same was not true in the case of a helicopter, he pointed out. If the distress call had been genuine, the helicopter should have been advised to land as quickly as possible in its own country, rather than given permission to fly to Alexandroupolis.
Even after their landing in Alexandroupolis, Uras said, Turkey would have preferred them to be deported without any lengthy process. "When the authorities discovered that these people were criminals that took part in the coup, in uniform, they should have been sent back," he said.
Pointing out that four or five Turkish television channels were now broadcasting live from the court, he expressed hope that the stages of due process will be swiftly concluded in Greece and the "terrorist elements return to face justice in Turkey," while offering assurances that this would be done in a fully transparent manner, in accordance with international norms and respect for their human rights.
"But they must be returned. If the trial is concluded quickly and in a positive way, in other words if the eight Turkish soldiers are returned as quickly as possible, this will be something very positive in our bilateral relations. If not, this will not help at all," he said.
The ambassador denied reports that Turkish military aircraft and ships were missing, saying all Turkish military equipment was accounted for, and dismissed suggestions that the failed coup might affect the EU-Turkey agreement on refugees and migrants, saying no change had been observed.