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Mitsotakis: Strict Protection of the Borders on Land and at Sea Will Continue

Αssociated Press

Greece s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, right, makes statements after his meeting with European Council President Charles Michel at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS -- Greece will continue to strictly protect its borders in Evros and at sea, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in joint statements on Tuesday with visiting European Council President Charles Michel.

European support must now be translated into tangible solidarity, said the prime minister, while he also commented on the fire at the Moria hotspot, referring to "lamentable incidents" in which "injuries or fatalities were fortunately averted."

He said that hundreds of unaccompanied refugee and migrant children have already left the island of Lesvos, adding that a temporary hosting centre has been set up "where living conditions are better than in Moria".

Mitsotakis underlined that the migration/refugee issue needs a European answer. "We have agreed with the European Commission president and with the president of the European Council," he said, adding that this dark moment may be followed by a brighter time. "Moria belongs to the past. Let's proceed with the founding of a modern identification and reception centre in another location," he said.

Regarding his discussion with Michel, Mitsotakis said this had focused on the developments at a sensitive time for the whole Mediterranean, adding that Turkey has "in the last months, unfortunately been threatening stability and disputing the sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus."

The prime minister said that his views coincide with those of the European Council president, pointing out that "the EU's geopolitical and strategic interests are at stake here".

He expressed hope that the next developments will be positive in terms of Ankara's behaviour: "The framework of repercussions has already been clarified. The time has come for actions, not for words. Turkey has time, both before and after the EU summit, to follow up the first encouraging step of disengagement from the crisis."

Greece's position, he added, continues to be the one he has expressed many times before, namely that dialogue can begin once provocations end.

"If we see tangible proof of good behaviour, we are ready to begin exploratory contacts with Turkey at once, on the sole difference that exists between us. Until there is a final delimitation, however, either through a bilateral agreement or through an international court ruling, the international law of the sea prohibits unilateral actions," Mitsotakis said.

Michel will visit Lesbos later today as Greece s migration minister says the government will use force if necessary to move homeless migrants to a new facility on the island after thousands of people were left without shelter by fires last week at an overcrowded refugee camp.