Foreign Ministry slams Greek FM for calling Turkey 'barbaric'

Greek riot police detain a migrant teen during clashes near the Moria camp for refugees and migrants, on the island of Lesbos, on March 2, 2020. (AFP File Photo)

The Foreign Ministry condemned recent statements by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who called "barbarian," calling it a shameful incident.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy criticized the Greek foreign minister on Thursday, saying that forgets its own barbarity by making such a statement.

"It is shameful that the country which commits all acts of brutality against innocent civilians on the border calls Turkey 'barbaric.' The Greek state must get rid of its own barbarity first," Aksoy said, noting that Greece has been violating human rights on its borders.

He continued by saying that the Greek government has adopted a policy of tensions rather than dialogue with Turkey, and has embraced "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" ideology against Turkey.

Aksoy also said that the Greek mistreatment of migrants and refugees on its borders has been documented in reports by international human rights organizations.

He continued by urging the Greek government to respect the rights of migrants and refugees, refrain from torture and maltreatment: "Furthermore, those who claim to be the cradle of civilization also need to respect those from other religions and who speak different languages."

On Wednesday, an official said Greece will reinforce police patrols on its border with Turkey, as the country braces for an expected new influx of migrants.

An additional 400 police will be sent to the northeastern Evros river border region "as a precautionary measure," police spokesman Thodoros Chronopoulos told AFP.

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

In skirmishes that went on for days, migrants trying to cross the border threw stones at Greek riot police who fired tear gas at them.

On Tuesday, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Skai TV that Athens was aware of "certain statements that suggest we will face pressure on our borders again, especially our land borders."

After the attempted asylum-seeker surge in March, Athens said it would extend a border fence in the area, a move that has created a new dispute with Ankara.

Turkey says it should be consulted about the fence expansion, noting that the Evros riverbed "has significantly changed due to natural and artificial reasons" since the border was established in 1926.

Ankara says "technical coordination" is required, and that it would not allow any "fait accompli" on its border.

Greece claims that the frontier is unchanged and that it is not obliged to consult Turkey about infrastructure on its own side of the border.

"The fence is on Greek soil, beyond any doubt, and with room to spare," the Greek foreign minister said Wednesday.

Greece is struggling to cope with illegal immigration from Turkey, both at the land border and on the Greek islands, that spiked before the country's virus outbreak.

Thousands of Europe-bound asylum-seekers flocked to the Turkish-Greek border in late February and March after the Turkish government said it would no longer prevent migrants from trying to cross over to Greece.

Greek border guards, police and members of the military fired tear gas and projectiles as they tried to stop people from forcing their way across the border.

Human rights groups have frequently criticized the Greek government for detaining migrants under the age of 18 traveling without guardians at the overcrowded camps.

Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants seeking to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

Ankara already hosts over 3.5 million Syrian migrants, more than any other country in the world and says it cannot handle another wave.

Greece's response to those trying to enter the country without prior authorization has been harsh, with at least three migrants have been killed by Greek security forces on the land border with Turkey. Many others have been battered and teargassed.

Turkish officials said earlier last month that the Greek coast guard had attempted to sink boats carrying migrants and refugees toward the Greek islands, opening fire and hitting the people on the boats with long sticks.

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