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Politics

Former US Ambassador Burns Rips Turkey for Pushing Greece, Cyprus

ATHENS – Former US Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns has joined a chorus of critics blaming Turkey for provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean just ahead of a critical European Union meeting.

Burns, an advisor to President-elect Joe Biden's campaign told the online 31st annual Greek Economic Summit of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs to be reined in.

Turkey had sent an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo and was claiming other Greek waters until a maritime deal with Libya no other country recognizes.

The ships were pulled after EU leaders, prodded by Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, warned that sanctions could otherwise be imposed although the Turkish leader would be exempted.

Burns said Turkey must step back and and end these "very aggressive actions" against both Greece and Cyprus, and return to dialogue, the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA) reported.

That was in reference to Turkey already drilling in Cypriot waters in violation of soft EU sanctions against only two executives of Turkey's state-run petroleum company at the same time Erdogan said he wants his country in the EU.

Cyprus is a member of the bloc that Turkey has been trying to join fruitlessly since 2005 and Turkish provocations collapsed talks to reunify the island where Turkey has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

"Turkey has become a great headache for NATO and for European countries,| he continued, citing Turkey's activities in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, its involvement in Syria, Libya and in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as buying Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems undermine the defense alliance and could be used against Greece.

Buying the Russian defenses led to the US barring Turkey from buying American-made F-35 fighter jets that could go to Greece with Turkish fighter jets frequently violating Greek airspace leading Greek pilots to engage them in mock dogfights.

Burns also noted Erdogan's authoritarian government, which has included jailing journalists and purging civil society, the military, judiciary and education system after a failed 2016 coup attempt against him.

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