by Aggelos Skordas
Turkish opposition Presidential candidate for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Muharrem İnce, only days ahead of the upcoming snap elections, visited Komotini in Western Thrace and met the local Muslim minority after holding a meeting with the city’s Turkish consulate authorities. In an attempt to “export” the Turkish Presidential electoral campaign to Greece the country’s main opposition leader linked the fate of the two Greek army officers held in a maximum security prison in Edirne for three months with that of the eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the failed coup attempt of July 2016 and requested for asylum.
Answering to journalists’ questions during an open air rally in Komotini, Ince said that “justice will be served”, while adding that he does not think they remain in prison due to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s personal intervention. “Greece is not delivering the servicemen Turkey has been requesting and Turkey is not delivering the servicemen Greece has been requesting. It is a matter of bilateral relations”, he was heard as saying, adding that despite the justice in Turkey he is struggling to make his country a fair state.
Referring to the lately increasing tension in the Aegean the CHP leader urged both sides to sit on the negotiations table.
According to Turkish media, prior to Ince’s visit, Greek authorities prevented the entry to those accompanying him: “We waited for two hours for the problem to be solved. Greek border police did not allow İnce’s entourage or the journalists, as they said they were not informed about it beforehand”, CNN Turk reporter Cansu Karadan said, according to Hurriyet Daily News. Reportedly, the border officials collected the passports of lawmakers, mayors and journalists accompanying Ince, as they tried to enter Greece.
During his brief stay in Komotini Ince reputedly referred to the ethnic Greek Muslim minority as “Turks”. His decision to visit Komitini and address local Muslims, who as Greek citizens are not entitled to vote in the upcoming Turkish elections, is seen as a response to Erdogan’s electoral rally held in Sarajevo last week. The majority of European Union member states authorities’ have denied Turkish candidates to hold electoral rallies in their cities.