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Politics

Amid Border Flap, Turkey’s Defense Minister Says Greece Provoking Trouble

As Turkey forces occupied a disputed swampy patch of the land border with Greece along the Evros River, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said it’s Greece bringing tension in the Aegean, calling it “a very serious provocation,” without specifying any incident.

Akar, who was on board frigate Barbaros at a Turkish naval base when he made his statement didn’t explain what he meant, said Kathimerini, as he also repeated Turkey’s claims to the seas.

“There is no hope a plan that ignores Turkey in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean can survive,” he said, referring to joint plans by Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel to exploit hydrocarbon resources, with the help of western oil and gas companies.

“We will do everything to defend our interests and our rights, and this is no threat,” Akar added, with Turkey already unlawfully drilling for oil and gas in the sovereign waters off Cyprus, where Turkey has occupied the northern third since a 1974 invasion.

Akar spoke after Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu said that a new wave of migrants would hit Greece after the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, signaling further violations of a 2016 swap deal with the European Union which has done little about it.

In February and March, Greece closed its part of the land border along the Evros when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent 10,000 migrants there and urged them to cross before they were further repelled by Greek riot police and Army units.

Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias are set to brief lawmakers on May 26 about the trouble along the land border and river that threatens to create a conflict.

They will meet with Parliament’s Committee of Defense and Foreign Affairs after Greece lodged a complaint with Ankara over the presence of Turkish military in an area where Greece is planning to build a fence to prevent migrants from crossing.

The area, Melissokomeio, is located at a point that floods every year after the autumn and, on maps of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne – which Turkey doesn’t recognize – that show it belongs to Greece.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey will let human traffickers operate again after COVID-19 lessens, which could target both the land border along the river as well as five Greek islands already holding 38,000 refugees and migrants in detention camps.

Turkey is holding 5.5 million refugees and migrants who fled their homelands, especially Afghanistan and Syria’s civil war, but Erdogan said the EU has not fulfilled its pledges and is holding back some 3 billion euros ($3.27 billion) from a 6-billion euro ($6.54 billion pledge.)

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