A court in Turkey’s northwestern province of Edirne has ordered the arrest of two Greek soldiers who the Greek army claimed “accidentally” crossed onto the Turkish side of the border, local media reported.
Turkish prosecutors had earlier demanded their arrest for military espionage and trespassing in a prohibited military zone. The court also ordered an investigation into “digital data” found in possession of the soldiers.
Lt. Aggelos Mitredotis and noncommissioned officer Dimitros Kouklatzis were detained by Turkish troops patrolling the border late on Thursday.
The Greek army earlier had issued a statement that the pair was deployed on the border and lost their way due to inclement weather and crossed to the other side of the border by mistake.
Greece expects Turkey to swiftly return the two soldiers, a government spokesman said on Friday, according to a report by Reuters.
“We are in consultation with Turkish authorities for a prompt resolution of the matter,” Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters. “Legal processes in Turkey will be put in motion swiftly, and we expect the return of the two Greeks to our country,” he said. “Yesterday’s incident was the result of a mistake. The two Greek officers diverged from their route because of the bad weather in the area and found themselves, I repeat, by mistake, in Turkish territory.”
Tzanakopoulos said that after the arrest of the two Greeks stipulated legal procedures followed. “It’s a formality and concerns a trial for illegal entry to the country which will be concluded, and we expect their return to our country,” he said.
Greece’s army command said earlier that from the first moment, Greek authorities were in contact with their Turkish counterparts and that procedures for the soldiers’ return to Greece were ongoing.
Most of the Greek-Turkish border is marked by the Maritsa River, with a fence running along much of the land section. Some parts, however, are not clearly marked, and the area where the soldiers strayed was reportedly in woodlands near the town of Kastanies.
The border is tightly monitored by both parties due to the massive refugee influx into Europe since 2015, along with terror threats.
Greece and Turkey had improved their ties after a presidential visit to Athens last year but hostilities recently re-emerged. Greece was accused of provocation by Turkey when its ships violated Turkey’s territorial waters near unmarked islands in the Aegean Sea, and Ankara has been critical of Athens since Greek courts rejected the extradition of soldiers allegedly involved in a 2016 attempted coup in Turkey.
The two countries are also at odds over Cyprus and issues related to the Muslim-Turkish and Greek Orthodox minorities in both countries.