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Greece on Turkey asylum row - democracies cannot threaten or be threatened

FILE PHOTO: Three of the eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece last July in a helicopter and requested asylum after a failed military coup against the Turkish government, are transferred in a police convoy to a court in Athens, Greece, April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis


ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece dismissed Turkish anger on Sunday over its decision to grant asylum to a soldier who Ankara accuses of involvement in the abortive coup against President Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.

Turkey said on Saturday the decision by a Greek asylum board undermined relations between the two countries. The soldier was one of eight who fled after the July 15 coup attempt.

It also accused Athens of harbouring "coup plotters", a charge Greece denies. The countries are at odds over a host of issues from ethnically split Cyprus to sovereignty over airspace, but their relations had improved in recent years.

The asylum board rejected the applications by the other seven soldiers, and the Greek government has appealed the decision to grant the soldier asylum and sought its annulment. But it says the country's judiciary is independent.

"Our faith in democratic principles and practices is not a weakness, but a source of strength," the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

"Democracies do not threaten, or can be threatened," the foreign ministry said.

"On the contrary, they work responsibly and methodically to promote understanding and entrench stability and good neighbourly relations. Greece will continue this path ...and hopes its neighbours will do the same."

The eight soldiers had flown by helicopter to Greece in the early hours of July 16, 2016, as the attempted coup against Erdogan crumbled. They had denied involvement in the attempt.

(Reporting By Michele Kambas, editing by Larry King)

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