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Iran Press TV

Greece close to fatal accident with Turkey: Defense minister

Iran Press TV

Sat Mar 10, 2018 06:39PM

The Greek defense minister has slammed Turkey for what he said was violating its airspace and territorial waters, warning that Athens is on the verge of a "fatal accident" with Ankara.

"We are very close to a fatal accident. When our airspace is violated, we send our aircraft to drive the Turkish aircraft outside our airspace," Panos Kammenos said in an interview with French newspaper Liberation on Saturday, according to the Greek Reporter news website.

"Greece is basically at the mercy of an accident that can at any moment engulf the coastguard, navy etc.," he added.

The Greek defense chief said by violating Greece's airspace and territorial waters, "Ankara is also trying to exert pressure on Europe."

"We are obliged to defend our territory which is not only Greek but also European," he said.

US Ambassador to Athens Jeffry Pyatt has expressed concern about the Greek-Turkish tensions in the Aegean Sea.

"My concern, my fear, is the accident … As long as you have these lethal complex military systems operating close to each other there is always a terrible risk of an accident, which of course will cause great complications in your relationship," he said in January.

Tensions have been on the rise over the detention of two Greek soldiers who were arrested for illegally crossing the border into Turkey and allegedly entering a prohibited Turkish military zone.

On Friday, the Greek defense minister said the two soldiers, a lieutenant and a sergeant, being detained in Turkey were "hostages."

The soldiers were detained on March 2 for entering a forbidden military zone in the northern province of Edirne in Turkey, and as Turkish security sources reported the two men faced charges of "attempted military espionage."

Lawyers for the two soldiers filed a demand for their release at the court in Edirne.

However, the Turkish court rejected the appeal and ruled that the pair must remain in custody on the grounds that they did not have permanent residence in Turkey and should await the result of examining the "digital data" seized from them, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

Rejecting the allegations leveled by Turkey, the Greek army said the two had accidentally lost their way in bad weather while patrolling around the Evros River that divides the two neighboring countries.

The soldiers told prosecutors that they had erroneously entered through a border crossing after "following footprints in the snow in an attempt to stop migrant smuggling."

Meanwhile, in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit published on Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusogu said Turkey's judiciary was seeking to determine whether the Greek soldiers crossed into Turkey by accident or deliberately.

Asked whether Ankara was considering exchanging the soldiers with eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece following an attempted Turkish coup in 2016, Cavusoglu ruled out such a prospect, saying "We do not want such an agreement."

The eight Turkish troops had rejected any involvement in the attempted coup, and Greek courts ruled they would be at risk of not receiving a fair trial if returned to their home country.

Thousands of military and police officers have been jailed or dismissed from their jobs over an alleged role in the coup. The eight who fled to Greece have repeatedly claimed that they feared for their lives back home.

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