Turkey tells Greece it must end pushbacks of migrants to help mend ties

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu called on Greek Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis to end pushbacks of migrants to help mend bilateral ties, the Middle East Eye said on Monday.

Soylu made four demands to Mitarakis during their meeting in the Turkish capital Ankara last week, the news website said, citing Greek and Turkish sources that it did not identify.

Soylu and Mitarakis held their meeting on Nov. 2, to discuss migration issues. After the talks, Mitarakis said the two ministers had a “common understanding of the dangers of the migration crisis”.

Diplomatic relations between Greece and Turkey reached the lowest point in decades last year after Turkey sent seismic research vessel Oruç Reis, escorted by warships, into waters claimed by Greece to search for natural gas. Greece responded by deploying its navy and the standoff prompted the EU to temporarily impose sanctions against senior Turkish energy ministry officials.

While the two governments have since held bilateral contacts to help resolving the dispute and searching for common ground to end long-standing differences over maritime borders, Ankara continues to blame Greece for migrant pushbacks across the Aegean Sea.

By inviting Mitarakis to Turkey, Soylu wanted to open a new series of contacts to directly discuss the practical issues, the sources said.

If Athens stops migrant pushbacks from Greece to Turkey, Ankara would accept more than 1,000 migrants who travelled to Greece from Turkish territory, as agreed by a 2016 EU migrant deal, Soylu said, according to the sources.

Soylu's third demand was the opening of a new communications line between the two countries’ coastguards through their respective third-in-rank officers, to help the coordination of the efforts against migration, the news outlet said.

Greece has pushed back about 6,230 asylum seekers from its shores since the start of last year, according to the Border Violence Monitoring Network(BVMN), a coalition of 13 NGOs recording such incidents in the western Balkans, the Guardian said in May. Greece is also facing a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights accusing it of abandoning dozens of migrants in life rafts after several were beaten, the British newspaper said.

Mitarakis has repeatedly denied the accusations, labelling the reports as “fake news”.

The Turkish minister also asked the extradition of Turkish citizens in Greece who are blamed for alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Islamic group that Turkey accuses for orchestrating the failed military coup in 2016. 

 

 

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