by Aggelos Skordas
Two Greek army officers were arrested by Turkish forces on Thursday afternoon after crossing borders with Turkey during a routine patrol in the Northeastern region of Evros River. The Greek servicemen were patrolling by the only land borderline between the two countries in a heavily forested region, near Kastanies, when they reportedly got disorientated due to bad weather conditions and unintentionally crossed the frontier with Turkey. After encountering a Turkish patrol unit, the officers, a second lieutenant and a sergeant, were taken to the provincial gendarmerie command in Edirne.
“We announce that on Thursday, 1 March, 2018, an army patrol comprised of two army officers, in the context of a patrol in the forested border region of Kastania, Evros, due to inclement weather conditions, are said to have been identified by a Turkish patrol in Turkish territory. The competent authorities have taken up the issue. From the first moment, Greek authorities have been in contact with Turkish authorities, and the procedures are underway for their return to Greece. They are in good health and are located in Adrianoupolis (Edirne) in order for the formal procedures to be completed”, an official statement issued by the Greek Army General Staff on Friday reads.
As the two officers said to Turkish officials after their arrest, the heavy snow made it difficult to discern the borderline. Although, according to state-run Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed security sources, “the Greek soldiers are facing espionage charges for spying across the border and sending records on their phones to their superiors”, after entering prohibited military zone. Other Turkish media reports indicate that the court ordered their phones data to be investigated, while their weapons were removed.
On the contrary, the two Greek officers claim that they ended up on Turkish soil while following and recording footprints on the snow and that they would later send the footage to their superior officers. The Greek Army General Staff is in contact with the Turkish authorities and has been briefed over the necessary procedures. At the same time, officials from both the Greek National Defense Minister and the Foreign Minister are in contact with their Turkish counterparts as well as the Greek Embassy in Ankara and the Greek Consulate in Edirne.
Meanwhile, the Greek government is attempting to downplay the incident: The court case is standard procedure for illegal entry into a country, the government Spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters during a press conference. “From the moment the Turkish authorities decided to arrest them, the legal procedure must be followed. We are expecting the return of the two Greek officers to our country shortly”, he characteristically noted. The Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, he added, has communicated with his Turkish counterpart, General Hulusi Akar. As the first underlined, the procedures for the soldiers’ return to Greece are ongoing.
Both the Greek officers are reportedly in good health and will be held in Edirne until Monday when they will stand trial.