April 3, 2018 / 9:47 AM / 4 months ago

Greek PM urges Turkey to release two soldiers as goodwill gesture

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged Turkey on Tuesday to release two Greek soldiers detained on Turkish territory in March and accused Ankara of escalating tensions.

FILE PHOTO: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Greece maintains the soldiers crossed into Turkey by mistake while following the trail of suspected illegal migrants. Turkish courts have ordered their detention on suspicion of illegal entry and attempted military espionage.

Ankara should, as a gesture of good will, release two Greek soldiers who were detained after crossing the border into Turkey on March 1, Tsipras told a meeting of his cabinet.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and members of his government attend a cabinet meeting at the parliament in Athens, Greece April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

“Of late (Turkey) has intensified its provocations and is escalating the situation on all fronts,” Tsipras said.

“It is unfair that they are being held. Just as we, in the past, returned Turkish soldiers who may have crossed the Greek border by a few meters, I expect the Turkish president to today do the same,” Tsipras said.

Neighbors and NATO allies Greece and Turkey are at odds over a host of issues from ethically-split Cyprus to rights in the Aegean Sea.

In past decades relations between the two have at times been tense but in recent months rhetoric on both sides has taken a marked turn for the worse, particularly after the collapse of peace talks in Cyprus in July 2017.

“The judicial process should be expedited to allow these two officers, who did nothing more than their duty, to come home,” Tsipras said.

Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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