Turkey on Friday (27 January) threatened to scrap a migrant readmission deal with Athens after the Greek Supreme Court refused to return eight suspects allegedly linked to the failed July coup.
“We are now considering what we are going to do,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu said in an interview with state TRT Haber broadcaster.
“We have a readmission agreement between us and Greece, with the European Union. We are going to take necessary steps, including the cancellation of this readmission agreement,” he added.
Last March, Turkey and the EU signed a landmark agreement in which Ankara pledged to take back all illegal migrants landing in Greece to help stem migrant flows to the EU.
The deal helped brake a massive human influx, especially from Syria, that became a hot political and social issue in Europe.
There is also an existing agreement between Ankara and Athens on the readmission to Turkey of illegal migrants.
In angry remarks, the foreign minister said Turkey could not “look favourably on a country which protects terrorists, traitors, coup-plotters. Greece needs to know this”.
The Greek court Thursday (26 January) blocked the extradition of the former Turkish army officers, saying that they would not have a fair trial in Turkey.
Çavuşoğlu said that the ruling was not judicial but a “political decision”.
The suspects — who landed a helicopter in Greece a day after the botched putsch and asked for asylum — were also ordered to be released from police custody.
Earlier Friday, the Turkish justice ministry submitted a second extradition request to Greece for the return of the officers, state-run news agency Anadolu said.
Historical foes but now NATO allies, Greece and Turkey have enjoyed warmer ties under Erdoğan, though tensions never completely disappeared.
Çavuşoğlu said the ruling would have an “effect on relations whether we want it to or not”.
The controversy also comes as Greece and Turkey are trying to work together to find a deal for the reunification of Cyprus in ongoing talks brokered by the UN.
The officers deny having taken part in the attempted putsch and have claimed their lives are in danger should they return to Turkey.
They have requested asylum in Greece but their applications were originally rejected in July.
However, their appeals are currently being processed.