Delays in responding, underestimating the situation, and lack of planning for Turkey’s growing provocations exposed the government

PM holds cabinet meeting today on two Greek officers held hostage by Turkey

PM holds cabinet meeting today on two Greek officers held hostage by Turkey
The Greek government is facing a form of psychological warfare from Turkish authorities, who six days ago took hostage two Greek officers at the Evros border region.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will hold an emergency meeting today to evaluate the latest developments.

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos is headed for Brussels to address his colleagues at a European Union Foreign Affairs Council (defence) meeting. The meeting will be attended by Nato’s Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller.

Within the government, there are reports that stir concern about there having been no communication between the Greek defence and foreign ministries, for the first two days after the officers were captured.

It is unclear why the case was handlel by the military brass for the first two days instead of the PM himself, as occurred in the case of the ramming of the Greek patrol boat by Turkey, when he spoke to Turkish PM Yildirim, or by the competent ministers.

The event was underestimated, leading both government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos and Alternate Defence Minister Fotis Kouvelis to describe it as a formality, and to offer assurances that the officers would return rapidly.

At the same time, some of Tsipras’ advisors have suggested that he request the resignations of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, and of the Army General Staff Alcibiades Stefanis.

That was flatly rejected, as it would cause unrest in the armed forces and give Turkey a victory on the level of impressions.

The delay in responding, the underestimating of the situation, and the lack of planning for confronting Turkey’s growing provocations over the last weeks, have all reflected poorly on the government, as Tsipras knows.

The next day

Managing the next day will be difficult for the PM, as the officers’ request for release from prison pending trial was rejected and the precise charges they will face are unknown, beyond the fact that they were remanded in custody on charges of illegally entering Turkey.

At the same time, Turkish authorities have signaled that their investigation is ongoing. That means the charge of military espionage could be added, as the Turkish media have noted.

Ankara has also ruled out an exchange of the two Greek officers for the eight Turkish officers held in a Greek prison, which Athens could not have consented to anyway, as the Greek Supreme Court has ruled irrevocably that the eight cannot be handed over to Turkey.

Vasilis S. Kanellis