Turkey hits back at EU, Greek criticism over migrants

By: AFP      Published: 05:47 PM, 25 Jun, 2020
Turkey hits back at EU, Greek criticism over migrants

Turkey on Thursday accused Greece of human rights violations as it hit back at criticism by Athens and the European Union over its policies on migrants.

The EU's chief diplomat Josep Borrell on Wednesday said Brussels was determined to protect its frontiers as he visited the Evros border area, the scene of clashes in March after Turkey said it would no longer prevent migrants from going to Europe.

After accompanying Borrell to the border, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias accused Turkey of encouraging a fresh surge of migrants into Europe. Turkey has "once again declared that its land borders to Europe are open," following a brief respite during the pandemic, he said. "At the same time, its coastguard escorts boats laden with migrants to the Greek islands."

The remarks are an example of Greece's attempt "to cover up human rights violations and crimes against refugees," Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said. "The fact that the EU Commission is complicit is unfortunate," he added. "We invite the EU and Greece to fulfil their responsibilities instead of blaming our country, and to show respect for refugees' rights," Aksoy said in a statement.

Already tense relations between Ankara and Athens deteriorated further when thousands of migrants and refugees flocked to Turkey's land border with Greece after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in late February their attempts to leave would not be stopped. But there was violence at the frontier as Greek police fired tear gas at migrants trying to break through the fence, who responded by throwing stones.

There are also tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over offshore hydrocarbon resources, especially after Turkey signed a maritime agreement with Libya late last year which expanded Ankara's claims over the area. Dendias said Turkey "continues to undermine security and stability, as well as peace, in the eastern Mediterranean".

Aksoy rejected the Greek minister's statements as "completely disconnected from reality". He urged Greece to stop "trying to set up an alliance of malice against Turkey and abusing the EU, which will have no benefit for Greece".