President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan hold up a photo of Syrian refugee children addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
NEW YORK – Wasting no time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the podium at the United Nations General Assembly annual opening in New York to rage against Greece.
That was on everything from alleged refugee pushbacks to disputes over the seas between them, just as tensions were already nearly peaking to near-conflict levels at times and threatening war.
Curiously though, he also went hard at Greece in claims that refugees and migrants – being sent from Turkey in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal – were dying in the waters after being forced back.
“Greece is turning the Aegean into a cemetery for migrants,” said Erdogan, stating that Greece “with its illegal pushbacks increases the violence against migrants in the Aegean.”
He didn’t offer any proof beyond his usual bombast although human rights groups, activists and some major media sites have also made the same claims that Greece is forcing back refugees and migrants on land and sea.
Erdogan also stated that apart from the “inhumane pushbacks,” Greece is pursuing a policy of “political repression and discrimination” against its Muslim community, said Kathimerini.
“Whoever tries to conduct shows of force in the area, are not equal and have no relations militarily or politically and makes themselves a joke. In the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, a continued stability and peace depends on the respect of everybody’s rights and interests,” he said.
He added: “We call on Greece to cease its policy of provocations and tension and to respond to the call for cooperation and support,” not mentioning Turkish violations of Greek airspace with fighter jets.
“Turkey will defend its rights and interests to the very last in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean and will not be entrapped in the games of those who pursue a strategy of tension for political gains,” he said.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias fired right back although Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he wouldn’t be lured into trouble by Erdogan’s belligerent rhetoric.
“The country that is instrumentalizing the issue of migration, endangering tens of thousands of lives, comes here to accuse Greece of crimes against humanity, when in fact it is using false data that has been discredited for over ten days,” said Dendias from New York, the paper reported.
“The country that directly threatens with war, the country that has a standing casus belli, the country that questions Greek sovereignty over the islands of the Aegean comes here to talk about good neighborly relations,” he added.
That was in apparent reference to Turkey warning it would be a cause for war if Greece doubled its maritime boundaries to 12 miles, which would cut off Turkey’s coast from the seas.
“The country that occupies foreign territory, including that of the Republic of Cyprus, comes here to talk about conditions of security and co-operation in the Eastern Mediterranean,” added Dendias.
“What we have to reply is that Turkey would be best served to respect international law and to return as quickly as possible to the realm of the rational,” he said.
“Certain claims by the Turkish side have been heard and answered many times. Firstly, Greece is a European country that absolutely respects human rights and, of course, the rights of its Muslim community,” he said.
He added that, “This is proven by the raw numbers. The Muslim community in Greece is growing, expanding, and prospering,” said Dendias in response to claims that Greece is discriminating against its Muslim community.
“We call on Turkey to answer on what happened to the Greek community of Istanbul and how the thriving – with more than 100,000 members once, community, today numbers less than 5,000 people,” he also said.
Have an idea for a story, or know of an event we should cover? We want to hear about it!
The National Herald is the paper of record of the Greek Diaspora community. Through independent journalism, we bring news to generations of Greek-Americans, with stories on the individual, community and international level. Visit and support our 106 year-old sister publication Εθνικός Κήρυξ.
You’re reading 1 of 3 free articles this month. Get unlimited access to The National Herald. or Log In