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In Turkish Taffy Pull, Mitsotakis Says Greece Extending Border Fence

Αssociated Press

FILE- Migrants stand behind a fence near the Kastanies border gate at the Greek-Turkish border, Monday, March 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

ATHENS - Prime Minister Kyrikos Mitsotakis said Greece will continue to extend a fence along the northern land border with Turkey, separated by the Evros River, including a disputed swampy patch reportedly occupied by Turkish soldiers, which he disputed.

“It is our inalienable right to do it and we’ll do it,” he said in a pre-recorded interview with Star TV as the New Democracy government said it wants to be ready in case Turkey sends more migrants to the border as it did in February, busing some 10,000 there.

Greece closed its side and sent riot police and Army units to repel those trying to cross by land or over the river, whose treacherous currents have led it to be called The River of Death, taking hundreds of lives, said Refugee Today.

Turkey is holding some 5.5 million refugees and migrants fleeing war and strife in their homelands, including 3.3 million from Syria’s civil war and is supposed to contain them under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.

That is regularly violated by Turkey which lets human traffickers keep sending more of them on rubber dinghies and rickety craft to five Greek islands which are holding more than 38,000 of them in overcrowded detention centers.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier said he would send migrants to the border because the EU hadn’t upheld some of the terms of the deal, including holding back 3 billion euros ($3.28 billion) from a 6 billion euro ($6.56 billion) pledge.

But despite widespread reports that Turkish soldiers were in a swampy spot that bisects the border, Mitsotakis said they hadn’t.

“I believe nothing remarkable happened” in Evros, he said, adding that there are “technical issues” between the two countries that will be resolved without explaining what they were.

Mitsotakis said the Greek government took “immediate decisions” when the border crisis broke. “We are not going to accept a policy of mass inflows. Protecting our borders and European borders is an acqui,” a body of law, he also said.

The Turkish Ambassador to Greece, Burak Ozugergin told SKAI TV the status of this pocket of land is not a “border dispute, but a technical matter that is perfectly normal between neighbors across land borders,” without referring to whether Turkish soldiers were there.