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Greece Girds for Turkish New Wave of Provocations, Refugees, Migrants

Αssociated press

File- A migrant is seen behind a fence at a detention center in the village of Fylakio, Evros region, near the Greek-Turkish border on Sunday, March 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

ATHENS – Faced with growing domestic unrest over his handling of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, Greece expects Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will likely try to take the pressure off by further stoking trouble with Greece.

Turkish officials are in talks with leaders in the United States, Germany and also the European Union, which has been reluctant to take him on or impose tougher sanctions for Turkish drilling off Cyprus and plans by Erdogan to do the same off Crete.

After he failed to get some 10,000 refugees and migrants across the land border in February when Greece shut its side and sent riot police and Army units to repel any attempts to get across, he pulled them back but Greece is anxious a new wave will be sent to Greek islands already holding more than 38,000 of them.

Greece is trying to keep its distance as part of a policy not to get involved in the hot rhetoric pouring out of Turkey, said Kathimerini, where officials said they want the return of Greek islands ceded in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne Turkey doesn't accept.

As Turkish officials hold talks with counterparts in Washington, Berlin and Brussels over possible new foreign funding, Greek policy is guided by the need to stay clear of There's been a downturn in the number of refugees Turkey has let human traffickers send to Greek islands, likely tied to talks with the EU and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the newspaper said.

Turkey is holding some 5.5 million refugees and migrants, including 3.3 million from Syria's civil war, and Greece has been fretful that Erdogan will try to let more be sent to to the islands and has been girding for an onslaught that hasn't come.

But the spring and summer is when the numbers pick up as they have since the crisis began almost five years ago, and more than four years since the EU signed a swap deal with Turkey that's been essentially-suspended and regularly violated.

A catalyst driving Turkish policy has been the pandemic and the country's economic problems are getting nearly out of hand, the lira falling to a record low and Erdogan blaming “foreign powers” for his ongoing woes.