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Turkey is a critical, strong country: Greek PM

TURKEY IS A CRITICAL, STRONG COUNTRY: GREEK PM

Turkey is a critical and strong country which hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Wednesday.

Speaking to Greek state television ERT, Tsipras said Turkey's attitude in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean toward Greece had changed after the July 15, 2016 defeated coup attempt organized by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

Tsipras called "unacceptable" Turkey's attitude toward a drilling ship of Italian energy firm ENI which caused a row between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots for trying to conduct gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and toward the detention of two Greek soldiers who crossed Turkey's border in western Edirne province.

However, he also said Turkey had a decisive role in regards to the migrant crisis.

"It deserves to be respected in this regard," Tsipras said.

Speaking on the extradition of eight FETO coup plotters to Turkey, he said he did not promise Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to send them back and he could be misunderstood.

"I couldn't have promised about this. I'm aware of the separation of power principle in a country like Greece. I haven't been able to make a promise to the leader of a foreign country about a ruling that judicial authorities would make," he said.

The eight former Turkish servicemen fled to Greece a day after the defeated 2016 Turkish coup. They are accused by Turkish authorities of involvement in the coup and being members of FETO.

In January, Greece's Supreme Court ruled against extraditing the former soldiers -- a move Turkey called "politically motivated".

The Greek Council of State decided in May to provide the right of asylum to the former soldiers.

Turkey has repeatedly called for the extradition of the suspected coup plotters, including during Erdoğan's official visit to Greece last December.

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup on July 15, 2016 which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Touching on the detention of the two Greek soldiers in Turkey, Tsipras said they had done everything they could in the diplomatic field and now they had to be patient.

The Greek soldiers were remanded into custody on March 2 for entering a prohibited military zone in Turkey's Edirne province, which borders Greece.

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