Turkish and Greek coast guards patrol the Aegean Sea | Photo: picture-alliance/AA/A. Balli
Turkish and Greek coast guards patrol the Aegean Sea | Photo: picture-alliance/AA/A. Balli

The EU foreign minister has said that Europe is determined to protect its external borders. Josep Borrell was on a visit to Greece, which accused its neighbor Turkey of encouraging a new surge of migrants into Europe.

The European Union’s most senior diplomat, Josep Borrell, has told Greece that the EU is "determined to protect the EU's external borders and strongly support Greece's sovereignty."

He made the comments as he visited Kastanies, the scene of violent clashes in March resulting from Turkey’s announcement that it would no longer prevent migrants from reaching the EU.

After accompanying Borrell to the border, the Greek foreign minister, Nikos Dendias, said Turkey on Wednesday had "once again declared that its land borders to Europe are open" following a suspension during the COVID-19 pandemic. He did not refer to any specific Turkish statement.

"At the same time, its coastguard escorts boats laden with migrants to the Greek islands," Dendias said. "But it also persists in undermining security and stability, as well as peace, in the Eastern Mediterranean."

War of words

Turkey rejected the Greek minister's statements as "completely disconnected from reality". The Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said it was "unfortunate" that the European Commission was "complicit," according to a report by AFP.

Greece was "trying to set up an alliance of malice against Turkey and abusing the EU, which will have no benefit for Greece," he added.

Turkey's Anadolu news agency also accused Greece of illegal push backs of migrants, reporting that the Turkish coast guard had rescued 95 asylum seekers in two separate incidents in the Aegean Sea this week who had been "pushed back by Greek forces into Turkish territorial waters."

'Trust and dialogue’

In a statement after the Evros meeting with Borrell, Dendias accused Turkey of “exploitation … of the hopes of tens of thousands of civilians for a better life,” and of trying to blackmail the EU into concessions.

At a later meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Borrell said he wanted "trust and a dialogue" with Turkey to help stabilize the region.

"In order to build a relationship of trust, it is important that Turkey stop its provocative actions which clearly infringe on the sovereign rights of Greece," Mitsotakis said.

In late February, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would let migrants wishing to get to the EU travel through the country. The statement caused thousands of people to head for the borders with Greece. Many gathered in the Evros border area or tried to get to Greek islands on boats and rafts.

On the land border at Kastanies there were skirmishes for days as migrants tried to break through fences, throwing stones at Greek police who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

•••• ➤Also read: Accusations fly between Turkey and Greece as border situation worsens

With AFP, AA

 

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