Greece turning Aegean into migrant cemetery, Erdoğan tells U.N. General Assembly

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday accused Greece of persecuting migrants in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean as it called on the long-time rival country to respond to Ankara’s calls for cooperation.

Erdoğan made the remarks during an address at the 77th session of U.N. General Assembly in New York, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“Greece is turning the Aegean into a cemetery for migrants,” the Turkish leader said, adding that country “with its illegal pushbacks increases the violence against migrants.’’

Migrants are among the string of ongoing sources of tension between Turkey and Greece. Ankara has frequently blamed Greece of engaging in violent and unlawful pushbacks against refugees, saying the acts are a crime against humanity, a charge Athens denies. 

Athens, for its part, accuses Ankara of using asylum-seeking migrants as political weapons, saying that it is obliged to stop them covertly entering Greece under an 2016 EU-Turkey deal to stem migration flows.

“It is high time for Europe and the United Nations to put an end to these atrocities that are tantamount to crimes against humanity,” the Turkish leader said.

Continued stability and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean depends on the “respect of everybody’s rights and interests,” Erdoğan said.

Oil-and-gas drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, specifically around Greek islands near Turkey’s coastline, is among the other sources of conflict between the countries.

“We call on Greece to cease its policy of provocations and tension and to respond to the call for cooperation and support,” he added.

The latest bout of tensions between Turkey and Greece was sparked by Ankara accusing Athens of arming islands in the Aegean Sea that have a demilitarised status, a claim Athens reject.

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