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Will Turkish-Greek tensions escalate over Aegean islands, fugitive officers?

A Greek court’s decision to deny Turkey’s request for the extradition of suspected Gulenist officers who had fled to Greece after the failed coup, coupled with new tensions on the Aegean Sea, could reignite old disputes between Ankara and Athens.
The eight Turkish soldiers, who fled to Greece in a helicopter and requested political asylum after a failed military coup against the government, are escorted by police officers as they arrive at the Supreme Court in Athens, Greece, January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis - RTSXGM0

Turkish Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar, the country’s highest-ranking military officer, visited the disputed Kardak islands in the Aegean Sea Jan. 29. Akar and the commanders of the Turkish army, navy and army forces visited the twin islands (known as Imia in Greek) on the anniversary of a crisis between Turkey and Greece that brought the two countries to the brink of war in 1996.

Both pro-government and opposition media outlets in Turkey interpreted the generals’ visit as a response to a Greek court’s decision to not extradite military officers who had fled the country as suspects in the July coup attempt and who are also suspected of being followers of the Pennsylvania-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen. The hard-line secularist and vehemently anti-government Sozcu described the visit as a “Threat to Greece for not handing over FETO-ists,” and the pro-government Star also used the word “threat” (gozdagi) on its front page and connected Akar’s visit to the Greek ruling. The Turkish government and many of those who dislike Gulen refer to him and his network as “FETO,” or the Fethullah Gulen Terror Organization, accusing them of masterminding the failed putsch.

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