Turkish authorities obtained information that 995 Turks have applied for asylum in Greece after last year’s coup attempt, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Oct. 24.
“We don’t want Greece to become a safe haven for FETÖ [Fetullahist Terrorist Organization],” Çavuşoğlu told reporters speaking at a press conference with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias.
The minister said Turkey is “disappointed” after the Greek court ruled against extraditing eight Turkish soldiers accused of involvement in an attempted coup on July 15, 2016. He recalled that two of the soldiers that fled to Greece are suspects in a court case for attempting to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Those asylum seekers needed to be evaluated to determine those linked to the Gülen Movement, the network of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey accuses of masterminding the putsch.
Turkey is “still hopeful” for the return of the eight soldiers despite the “bad experience,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Hours after the attempted takeover that FETÖ has been held accountable for, the eight soldiers, including three majors, three captains and two sergeant-majors, fled to Greece’s Alexandroupoli in a Black Hawk army helicopter. The aircraft was returned the next day but the soldiers immediately requested asylum and stayed.
Greece’s Supreme Court on Jan. 26 ruled against the extradition request by Ankara, stating that the men would not get a fair trial in Turkey and that their lives would be at risk if they returned.
Kotzias said the decisions on asylum seekers were made by the Greek judiciary and had to be respected. The Greek minister stressed that he and his cabinet members were among the sufferers from coups in Greece.
The exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece, aimed at resolving the decades-long dispute over the official border between the two countries in the Aegean Sea, will resume according to Çavuşoğlu.
The two ministers’ meeting also aimed preliminary discussions for the upcoming High Level Cooperation Council meeting planned for February.