Hitting back at claims by Ankara according to which Greek authorities have pushed back tens of thousands of migrants this year, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared that, on the contrary, the Hellenic Coast Guard has saved thousands of lives while also protecting Greece’s borders.
“Those who exploited the refugee crisis, using the persecuted as pawns in forwarding their own geopolitical goals, should be more cautious when referring to Greece,” Mitsotakis told the 4th European Union-Arab World Summit in Athens.
“We control our borders and always take in the hunted of this world. But one country alone cannot carry the problems of three continents on its shoulders,” the Greek prime minister said, addressing heads of state and officials from more than a dozen countries, including Syria, Iraq and Algeria.
He added that the influx of migrants to Greece is “asymmetrical” in relation to the country’s size and population and called for broader support. The migration crisis, said Mitsotakis, is an international challenge that cannot be addressed when countries like Turkey “dispute the facts of decades and make unacceptable demands.”
The Greek premier condemned Turkey’s stance in the Aegean as well as its violation of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone and called on Ankara “not to further electrify the sensitive area of the Eastern Mediterranean” and to “follow the rules of international law and good-neighborly relations.”
His comments followed a spike in rhetoric by Ankara, culminating in a claim by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday that Greece pushed back 25,404 irregular migrants to Turkey in the first 10 months of the year.
On Tuesday, two Turkish F-16s violated Greek airspace over the Dodecanese island of Leipsoi, in the latest of a spate of transgressions in the Aegean.