Athens (AFP) – Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Sunday rejected the suggestion of a swap deal involving two Greek soldiers jailed in Turkey in exchange for Turkish soldiers wanted by Ankara over the 2016 failed coup.
Pavlopoulos ruled out the potential swap after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said his government would consider the Greek soldiers’ case if Athens extradited the Turkish soldiers.
“The exchange of the two Greek soldiers that are jailed with the eight Turkish soldiers that are in Greece is out of the question”, said Pavlopoulos.
The two Greek soldiers were charged with espionage in Turkey after crossing over the border on March 2. They claim to have lost their way in the fog.
The eight Turkish soldiers fled their home country to Greece after the failed 2016 coup.
Greece’s Supreme Court has ruled that the men will not be extradited, despite Turkish demands for them to face charges at home. The men deny involvement in the coup attempt.
“They (Greece) ask us to give back the Greek soldiers and we told them ‘if you make such a demand, you should first give us FETO soldiers involved in a coup against our state’,” Erdogan told the private NTV television in an interview on Saturday.
“If they are handed to us, we will consider” the situation on Greek soldiers, Erdogan said.
FETO is the name Ankara uses for the movement led by Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for masterminding the coup attempt.
Gulen, based in the US state of Pennsylvania, denies the accusations.
“When I spoke about a hostage situation of the Greek soldiers I was mocked. Sadly, I am confirmed by this proposal of exchange”, the Greek Defence Minister, Panos Kammenos said on Saturday, commenting on Erdogan’s interview.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras earlier this month demanded the release of the two soldiers, arguing that they should not be “pawns to blackmail”.
A statement issued by his office on Sunday said that “mentions of a swap or offsetting the issue of the two Greek soldiers with other issues are unacceptable and therefore rejected”.