Two important milestones regarding the fate of the two Greek army officers who are languishing in a top-security Turkish prison, where they were taken as captives from the Evros border region, will be the 22-23 March EU summit, and the 26 March EU-Turkey meeting in Varna, Bulgaria.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras intends to hold a series of bilateral talks with key EU partners on the sidelines of the European Council meeting, to brief them on the circumstances of the capture and captivity of the two officers, to forge a broader front to pressure Ankara more effectively to release the two Greeks, and to back off from its hostile posture in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean.
Three days later, in the Bulgarian resort of Varna, European leaders and top officials, including European Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, are scheduled to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Greek government is apparently having second thoughts about going forward with the meeting.
Athens and Nicosia are reportedly considering requesting a postponement of the meeting, due to ongoing threats unleashed by Ankara against both countries, unless Turkey takes steps to tone down its provocations.
Moreover, Turkey’s moves to block oil and gas exploration in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone impacts on the financial interests of Italy and France, both of which are pursuing concessions in Cyprus’ offshore blocks.
If the meeting goes forward, one cannot exclude the prospect of an encounter between Erdogan and PM Alexis Tsipras – though no bilateral meeting has been announced – in which case the debacle of the two Greek officers will assuredly be broached.
Kouvelis visits officers’ parents
Alternate Defence Minister visited with the parents of the two officers today in the city of Orestiada, where the mother of one of the men asked what more he would do if it was his child. The minister remained silent.
He had assured the parents of both men that the government is doing everything possible to expedite their release and return to Greece.
Kouvelis’ trip indicated that he is taking an active, central role in handling the affair.
Greek Pentagon sources say that initiatives to free the officers, not all of which are being made public, are being taken at various levels.
The defence attaché at Greece’s Embassy in Ankara has visited the officers at the prison where they are being incarcerated in the city of Edirne.
Reporting by Manos Charalambakis