President Erdogan says Turkey expected more cooperation from Greece in extraditing soldiers linked to 2016 failed coup.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said disputes between Turkey and Greece could be resolved “peacefully” through dialogue after meeting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Ankara.
Tsipras landed in the Turkish capital on Tuesday for a two-day trip aimed at easing tensions between the two neighbours over a number of bilateral issues, including the long-running tussle over energy exploration off the coast of Cyprus.
“We, as Turkey, believe all the problems with Greece could be resolved peacefully,” Erdogan said at a joint press conference in Ankara with Tsipras. “We believe every problem could be resolved through dialogue.”
Tsipras’ second trip to Turkey as Greek premier in four years, reciprocates Erdogan’s visit to Athens in December when he became the first Turkish president to enter the country in 65 years.
During their meeting at the presidential palace, Erdogan and Tsipras were expected to discuss a migrant deal and economic cooperation, in addition to the thorny issue of Greece providing sanctuary to Turkish army officers who fled the failed Turkish coup attempt in 2016.
Tsipras on Tuesday said his government was happy to hold an “open” dialogue with Turkey.
“I am very pleased that communication channels (with Turkey) are open so that we can take more constructive steps,” he said.
Tsipras also said that Greece and Turkey have agreed to de-escalate any tensions in the Aegean Sea and proceed with confidence-building measures, while any differences with Turkey “can and must be solved with dialogue”.
Failed coup attempt
Erdogan said on Tuesday he expected more cooperation from Greece in the extradition of eight soldiers who fled to Greece following a failed July 2016 coup against his government.
Earlier on Tuesday, Turkey updated a list of former military officers wanted for their alleged role in the coup attempt to include the eight officers who have been granted asylum in Greece, with a bounty of 4 million Turkish lira ($770,446) each.
For his part, Tsipras said Greece does not welcome coupists, but the case of the eight soldiers who fled to the country is a matter for the justice system.
“On the thorny issue of the eight officers, Greece respects the decisions delivered by the judiciary,” Tsipras said.
“Coup plotters are not welcome in Greece, however, what is more important is to strengthen our cooperation on the sector of security,” he added.
Turkey has sharply criticised Athens for granting asylum to the Turkish soldiers
Tsipras’s visit came a few days after the 23rd anniversary of a 1996 crisis that brought the two countries to the edge of war over the sovereignty of a pair of rocky islets in the Aegean Sea, which Ankara calls Kardak and Athens refers to as Imia.
One of the main disputes between the two neighbours is the issue of oil and gas exploration off Cyprus, which has been divided between the internationally-recognised Republic of Cyprus and the breakaway Turkish north for over four decades.
The issue has been further complicated by the discovery in recent years of gigantic gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.
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