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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

EU diplomatic chief visits Greek-Turkish border as Athens warns of migration surge

Thousands of refugees amassed at the border in March after Turkey opened its borders [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 June, 2020

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Athens accuses Turkey of encouraging and even assisting migrants and asylum seekers in their bid to reach European shores.

The EU's chief diplomat visited the Greek-Turkish border on Wednesday, as Athens accused Ankara of encouraging a fresh surge of migrants into Europe.

"Today, following a brief respite due to the (coronavirus) pandemic, Turkey has once again declared that its land borders to Europe are open," Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said after accompanying EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell to the border.

"At the same time, its coastguard escorts boats laden with migrants to the Greek islands."

"But it also persists in undermining security and stability, as well as peace, in the Eastern Mediterranean," Dendias charged.

"It has caused problems to all its neighbours."

Borrell said the European Union was "determined to protect the EU's external borders and strongly support Greece's sovereignty," according to state news agency ANA.

"We share your concern, we discussed how we could stop the dynamics of escalation," Borrell said.

He was later scheduled to see Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Defence Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos in Athens.

The Evros border area was the scene of clashes in March after Turkey said it would no longer prevent asylum-seekers from reaching the EU.

Thousands of people quickly gathered in the border area or took makeshift rafts to Greek islands, seeking to cross from Turkey to the EU. 

For days, there were skirmishes on the border as asylum seekers tried to break through, throwing stones at Greek riot police who responded with tear gas.

Two migrant men were killed and one woman went missing after Greek border forces reportedly fired live ammunition, Amnesty International reported in April.

The leaders of the EU's three institutions - Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel and Parliament President David Sassoli - also visited the area at the time.

Greece is among several regional states at odds with Turkey over energy drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, and over the conflict in Libya.

Greek PM Mitsotakis has said the EU must not look "weak" in enforcing a UN arms embargo on Libya, after Turkey thwarted separate French and Greek attempts to inspect a Tanzanian-flagged cargo vessel suspected of carrying arms to Libya.

"We cannot take decisions, and then look weak in enforcing them," Mitsotakis told the leaders of the European People's Party, the European parliament's largest grouping, last week.

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