Some 14 Turkish military ships on active duty in the Aegean and Black Seas are reportedly “missing”, according to reports.
It is assumed that their captains do not wish to return to port, either because they supported the coup, or fear the ongoing purges in their country.
Some media reports have speculated that the ships may be on their way to Greek ports where the sailors will attempt to seek asylum. It is unclear how many ships are in the Black Sea and their respective number in the Aegean.
If the ships are stranded in the Black Sea, their captains have little choice but to apply for asylum in NATO members Bulgaria and Romania, or in prospective NATO members Ukraine and Georgia, or in Russia.
A rapprochement between Russia and Turkey appears to have been quickly unfolding in the last few days, with the two leaders, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, apparently turning the page after Turkish forces shot down a Russian bomber last November, close to the Syrian border. Reportedly, the two leaders will meet “within weeks”.
“We have not seen anything in the Aegean Sea,” a Greek government source told euractiv.com, adding that Athens is “really looking forward to seeing the situation getting stabilised”.
An extraordinary meeting was held yesterday (18 July) to discuss the developments in Turkey with the participation of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, Deputy Minister of Interior Nikos Toskas, the head of Greek Secret Services Yiannis Roubatis, and Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.
“We closely follow the developments but we remain calm,” the sources added.
According to the Turkish journal “Star”, the eight soldiers who fled by helicopter to Greece on Saturday (16 July) and then asked for asylum, allegedly belong to a commando group that attempted to kill President Erdoğan.
Press reports in Turkey suggest that around 40 commandos surrounded a hotel in Marmaris, where Erdoğan was staying for vacation, with an aim to kill him. However, the Turkish president managed to escape with the assistance of his personal guards.
After their mission failed, according to the “Star” report, the commandos moved to different directions with eight of them heading toward Greece.
However, some in Athens cautioned that this information should be carefully analysed, as it could be an attempt to put additional pressure on the Greek government to accelerate the extradition of fugitives.
Greek government sources told EURACTIV that the examination of the asylum requests may take up to 15 days and that the ultimate decision will take into consideration “international law and the protection of human rights”.
The same sources added that Erdoğan’s announcements regarding the introduction of death penalty “are just making the situation more complicated”.
Turkish ships in Black Sea
On 16 July the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said four Turkish ships with 350 personnel were on a NATO drill in the Black Sea. But he added that the situation was “calm” and that there was “nothing to worry about”.
A total of 2,000 military personnel from eight countries are taking part in a Sea Shield 16. It is the largest multinational military drill organised by the Romanian Naval Forces this year. It takes place in Romania’s territorial waters and the international waters of the Black Sea.
Borissov made the comments after meeting with the Turkish ambassador in Sofia. Few details of the discussion emerged, but it is believed the fate of the Turkish ships featured high in the agenda of the Ankara envoy.
Bulgaria, which shares a 259-km-long land border with Turkey, and also borders Turkey on the Black Sea, is vulnerable to migrant waves from Turkey. It is highly unlikely that Sofia would refuse to cooperate with Ankara in cases involving Turkish military personnel.
Admiral Veysel Kosele, the commander of the Turkish navy, has been out of contact since the night of the failed coup. It is not known whether he was an instigator of the attempt to oust President Erdoğan or is being held hostage by collaborators on the run.
The Turkish government had no information about Friday’s failed coup attempt until it was well underway, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said today, appearing to contradict a previous statement from the military leadership.
Earlier, the army General Staff said it had first received intelligence that a coup was underway at 4 pm local time (1300 GMT) on 15 July and that it had alerted the relevant authorities.
Soldiers blocked two bridges in Istanbul shortly before 10.30 pm local time (1930 GMT) and gunfire was heard in the capital Ankara shortly afterwards.
Kurtulmus also told reporters that 9,322 people were currently under legal proceedings in relation to the attempted coup. He dismissed reports that any naval ships had gone missing since the abortive coup on Friday night.