ATHENS, Greece (AP) – The Greek foreign minister accused Turkey on Wednesday of undermining stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean and causing problems with all its neighbors, while also reducing Greek airspace and territorial waters on a daily basis violated.
Nikos Dendias condemned Turkish actions in recent months in the Aegean Sea separating the two countries, saying that Ankara should “refrain from its illegal gunboat diplomacy”. Dendias spoke during a visit to Greece’s northeastern border with Turkey, accompanied by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
NATO allies and neighboring countries Greece and Turkey have had difficult relationships for a long time and the two countries have come to the brink of war three times since the 1970s. Divided on a range of issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean, relations have become increasingly tense in recent months.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that borders with Europe were open to migrants who lived in Turkey and wanted to enter the European Union. Although Turkey also shares a border with EU member Bulgaria, it was only on the Greek land border crossing that tens of thousands of migrants gathered and demanded that they be allowed to cross.
Dendias described the action as “exploiting, by Turkey, the hopes of tens of thousands of citizens for a better life … misled by a disinformation campaign orchestrated by top-level Turkish officials.”
Dendias and Borrell made a trip along the border crossing of Kastanies in the Evros region, where the migrants had gathered in late February.
“It is very clear that we are committed to protecting the external borders of the European Union and strongly supporting Greece’s sovereignty,” said Borrell.
The EU foreign policy chief said that his visit to Greece was planned, but that it had been pushed forward following recent incidents with Turkey “to show our solidarity and how much we share your concerns.”
Greece and Turkey are also in dispute over oil and gas exploration rights in the Mediterranean Sea, with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt outraged by a Turkish agreement with the UN-recognized government in Libya claiming the rights to a piece of Mediterranean Sea of which they say they say they are violating their sovereign rights.
Borrell said he and Dendias had discussed deteriorating relations with Turkey and “how to stop the dynamics of escalation.”
Dendias said that after a brief hiatus as countries treated the coronavirus pandemic, “Turkey has re-declared that its land borders to Europe are open. At the same time, the coastguard accompanies boats loaded with migrants to the Greek islands. But it also continues to undermine security and stability and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean. ‘
The Greek minister accused Turkey of “continuously violating the sovereignty of Libya, Syria, Iraq and our EU partner, the Republic of Cyprus. It violates Greece’s national airspace and territorial waters almost daily, including overflighting inhabited areas here in Evros and the Aegean Sea by armed combat aircraft. ”
He said that while Greece was “open to dialogue” to resolve differences with its neighbor, “we are not prepared to argue under duress or to legitimize Turkey’s continuing violations of legality.”
Borrell emphasized the importance of good relationships for all involved.
“I think this is in our interest and in the interest of the European Union, Turkey and Greece to try to solve current problems and improve current relations,” he said.
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