Turkey’s arrest on March 2 of two Greek soldiers on suspicion of espionage, after the pair entered a “prohibited military zone” along the border, should be cause for alarm in the West. When they were arrested – in the small space between Turkish and Greek guard posts — Angelos Mitretodis and Dimitris Kouklatzis explained that they had simply strayed by a few meters in the thick forest, due to the poor weather conditions. They had difficulty seeing where they were going, and so followed tracks in the snow.
Their lawyers’ plea for their release was rejected by a court in Edirne, on the grounds that “images were found in the cell phones of the soldiers, who intended to send the footage to their superiors.”
In Brussels, to urge European intervention on the matter, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos responded by saying that as member states of NATO, Turkey and Greece need to resolve the incident peacefully, “after negotiations between the two armed forces.” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expressed the EU’s “full hope that there will be a swift and positive outcome.”
The former chief of Greece’s armed forces, Manousos Paragioudakis, was less diplomatic. He accused Turkish special forces of “ambushing” the soldiers and called the arrests a “set-up.” Paragioudakis also stressed that patrols from both Turkey and Greece frequently cross each other’s borders unintentionally, but when this happens, the issue is “resolved on the spot,” through communication between Greek and Turkish commanders in the field. Until now, he said, there have been no arrests as a result of such incidents.