Turkey abandoned in its fight to prevent irregular migration: President Erdogan
With its ‘uncompromising stance,’ Greece wasted opportunity to strengthen cooperation with Turkey, says Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey was forsaken in its efforts to prevent irregular migration, the Turkish president said on Thursday.
"Turkey has been left alone in its extraordinary struggle to prevent irregular migration originating from Syria," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a video message sent to a symposium on the Aegean Sea and Turkish-Greek relations.
Saying that the 2015 refugee crisis – when 1.3 million people came to Europe to request asylum – could have been instrumental in strengthening cooperation between Turkey and Greece, Erdogan said Athens wasted this opportunity with its “uncompromising stance.”
Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution such as the Syrian civil war.
Through its March 2016 agreement with the European Union, Turkey was instrumental in bringing down migrant numbers and alleviating the crisis.
On recent disputes with Greece, including the maritime jurisdiction areas, violations of the non-militarized status of Aegean islands, and provocative Navtex announcements, he said Turkey prioritizes solving issues through dialogue and negotiation.
Erdogan stressed that they never neglected opening up a field for diplomacy while defending Turkey's legitimate rights arising from history and international law.
He said that Turkey expects Greece to respect its rights and interests and called on Athens to avoid "unilateral actions" and attempts at making faits accomplis.
"We will find solutions based on fairness, justice, and cooperation with Greece, observing neighborhood ties," he added.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue, and negotiations.
‘Unacceptable’ territorial waters demand by Greece
Speaking at the same event, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey and Greece have a variety of disputes, including the continental shelf, territorial waters, airspace, violations of the non-militarized status of islands in the region, provocative actions, as well as issues triggered by irregular migration and the European border agency Frontex.
He said Turkey is working hard to resolve these conflicts in line with international law, logic, and good neighborly relations, while the Greek side remained persistent in its aggressive attitude and acts.
Akar said Greece sought to expand its territorial waters to 12 miles unilaterally, which would translate into its domination over the Aegean as only one-fifth of the region would be open sea and two-thirds of it would become territorial waters of Athens.
This would make it almost impossible for the Turkish navy to cross into the Mediterranean through international waters, while third countries would also need Greece’s permission while crossing the Aegean Sea.
“There is no way Turkey would agree to this,” he added.
Akar added that the refugee crisis was a common problem of all countries with the EU in particular, and that the Greek attitude towards refugees made NATO's work more challenging, adding that violations of basic human rights, inhumane detentions, and violations as well as forced pushbacks into Turkish regions by Greek authorities are unacceptable.
Turkey and human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
A recent report by Amnesty International, Greece: Violence, lies and pushbacks, documented “how the Greek authorities are conducting illegal pushbacks at land and sea.”
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.