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Greece Wary Turkey Will Provoke Again During COVID-19 Crisis

Αssociated press

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting marking the International Women's Day, in Istanbul, Sunday, March 8, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

ATHENS – As the world locks down over the COVID-19 Coronavirus, Greece's New Democracy is reportedly said to be keeping a close watch on Turkey to see if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will try to send more refugees and migrants and step up violations of Greek waters and airspace.

Erdogan pulled back some 10,000 refugees and migrants from his country's border after Greece locked down its side as he said he was anxious that the deaths of 33 Turkish soldiers in an area of northern Syria they had invaded would see a spike in refugees from that country.

Turkey is holding about 3.3 refugees from Syria's civil war as well as 2.2 million from other countries and had allowed human traffickers to keep sending them to Greece, mostly to islands, during an essentially-suspended 2016 European Union swap deal.

COVID-19's spread made Turkey fall back to try to deal with the disease there but Greek officials, said Kathimerini, are wary Erdogan may try to strike again after he was unable to get the EU to revise the deal and release some 3 billion euros ($3.32 billion) held back from a 6-billion euro ($6.64 billion) pledge.

Turkey is continuing to drill for energy off Cyprus and Erdogan said he would do the same off Crete under a maritime deal his country signed with Libya, dividing the seas between them, an agreement denounced as unlawful by Greece.

Turkey also issued a navigational telex (NAVTEX) reserving waters for naval drills and submarines in the area between Kastellorizo, Rhodes and southern Crete until early April, the paper said.

That led Greece's government is consider dispatching an energy research ship south of Crete, the island where the US Navy has a base on Souda Bay.