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Turkey's ambassador warns Greece over military personnel

Published:Wednesday | July 20, 2016 | 7:00 AM

Turkey's ambassador to Greece said yesterday that Turkish public opinion is closely watching the case of eight Turkish military personnel who flew to Greece aboard a helicopter during last Friday's attempted coup in their country, and that failure for them to be returned to Turkey could harm bilateral relations.

The eight - identified as two majors, four captains and two master sergeants - landed in the airport of the northeastern city of Alexandroupolis after issuing a distress signal and requesting permission for an emergency landing, which was granted by Greek authorities. They say they weren't involved in the attempted coup, but had been tasked with transporting wounded and had come under fire from the police.

The eight have applied for asylum in Greece, and appeared before immigration officials Tuesday for the start of the asylum procedure. They will re-appear on July 26 for further interviews, and will stand trial tomorrow on charges of illegal entry into Greece.

The Greek government has said their asylum applications will be examined under international law, but that the fact that they are accused in their country of participating in a coup will be taken into account.

Turkish Ambassador Kerim Uras said the court case was being closely followed by public opinion in Turkey, with several Turkish television channels covering the developments live.

"So, emotions are running very high. ... There's great interest in this," the ambassador said, adding that a swift return to Turkey "can really turn into a great positive thing for bilateral relations."

However, he added, "if it's not, I would be quite concerned as an ambassador, and I must say this, that it would not help at all, and that public opinion's sentiments might be ... reactionary, let's say."

- AP