By: Daily Sabah
Greece, as a whole, has turned into a U.S. military base,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday.
The Turkish leader was referring to United States’ numerous military installations in Greece’s Alexandroupoli (Dedeağaç).
Greece is condemning irregular migrants at sea to death, Erdoğan also added.
“We have all the proof showing their actions,” he said.
“It is Greece that is condemning them to death by puncturing the boats of migrants,” the president underlined.
“We have all the proof.”
“You can fool the world by accusing Turkey,” Erdoğan also said. “But you can’t fool us.”
Erdoğan also accused Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of lying about the migration crisis.
“Saying that the migration crisis is rooted from Turkey is ingratitude,” Erdoğan emphasized, while reminding that Turkey hosts around 5 million migrants, 4 million of which are Syrians.
Greece accused Turkey on Tuesday of acting like a “pirate” in waters between the two regional rivals, claiming that its coast guard escorted and tried to push into Greek waters a boat of migrants who were trying to illegally reach Greece.
Turkey, in turn, accuses Greece of illegal practices and pushing back asylum-seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
Mitsotakis denied that claim during a press conference Tuesday, arguing that his government follows a “tough but fair” migration policy.
“We are intercepting boats that come from Turkey, as we have the right to do in accordance with European regulations, and waiting for the Turkish coast guard to come and pick them up to return them to Turkey,” he said.
Greece and Turkey, both NATO allies, are also at odds over undersea gas and oil exploration rights.
Turkey’s five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees leaving Turkey for the European Union, with Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean in a bid to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as a number of boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants aiming to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks and summary deportations without migrants being given access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.