ANKARA – Going back and forth between diplomacy and belligerence, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he might unleash millions more refugees on Greece and called Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis a liar.
Turkey is holding some 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands but there are some 100,000 in Greece and Turkey has let human traffickers keep sending more, mostly to five
Referring to the migration issue in joint statements with Hungarian leader Viktor Orban – whose country has locked them out – Erdogan said he does “not know what will happen to Greece if we open the borders,” said Kathimerini.
“It is ungrateful for (Greece) to say that Turkey is the source of the problem while our country is hosting 5 million refugees. If we open our borders, I do not know what Greece will suffer, what Greece will do,” he said.
He also claimed that Greece “sinks refugee boats in the Aegean and the Mediterranean and sentences them to deaths,” allegations also made by human rights groups accusing Greece of unlawful pushbacks, but the Turkish leader made no reference about allowing traffickers to send them to Greece.
That’s in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union but the bloc leaders have been reluctant to press him, fearing he will make good on his threat to send even more.
He charged Mitsotakis and his associates of “lying and not behaving honestly, and that is why they do not inspire trust in the region,” referring to the Greek government denying the pushback claims.
Erdogan is also irked that Greece and the United States re-signed a military cooperation deal which will see more American troops and bases in Greece, complaining that the US “chose the wrong neighbor” and that “all of Greece has been turned into an American base.”
Turkey has been kept from buying US-made F-35 fighter jets after acquiring Russian S-400 missile defense systems that could be used against Greece in a conflict and undermines NATO, the defense alliance to which all three countries belong.
Greece’s major opposition SYRIZA leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras said that the refugee crisis that worsened when he was Greece’s leader and had an open door policy can only be solved through cooperation, not tension.
Turkey must understand that it is useless to count on escalating tension, he said. “It stands to lose, not gain anything by this tension,” Tsipras said after Erdogan indicated that “Greece will suffer” if Turkey opens its borders to thousands of migrants and refugees, Greece’s state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) reported.
“It stands to gain nothing from using human pain for political reasons, as we saw from the Erdogan government in March 2020 at Evros,” Tsipras added, referring to a migrant push at the Greek-Turkish border last year.
Speaking at the Komotini Concert Hall, where he lashed out at the government and against “the complete failure of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in almost everything that he promised,” Tsipras said.
Greece, he said, is “caught in the vise of the pandemic and rising prices, but also in a vise by Mitsotakis” who is “handling the pandemic in a way that creates more problems rather than providing solutions.”