Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the spectre of opening the Turkish border for refugees and migrants to flock to Greece during a joint news conference in Ankara today with visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying that, “It is ungrateful [for Greece] to say that Turkey is the source of the [refugee] problem when our country hosts about five million refugees.”
“If we open our borders, I do not know what will happen to Greece, I do not know what Greece will do. Moreover, Greece is a country which in the Aegean sinks vessels carrying migrants and condemns them to death,” Erdogan said.
The remarks came after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at a joint news conference with Dutch PM Mark Rutte on 9 November that Turkey has systematically instrumentalised refugees and is to blame for not impeding human smugglers from transporting refugees [on unsafe dinghies, often without life vests] toward Greece, which has saved “hundreds if not thousands” of refugees and migrants.
Mitsotakis noted that in the latest incident, the Hellenic Coast guard saved over 250 migrants who were at risk of drowning south of Crete, and that Greece – which has been in the past confronted with an unprecedented migrant crisis – does this every single day.
Erdogan declared that, “Mr. Mitsotakis and his cohorts spend their days telling lies and do not behave honourably, and that is why they do not engender trust in the region.”
Annoyance over US bases in Greece
Erdogan also expressed his intense consternation over the US presence in Alexandroupolis, not far from the Greek-Turkish border, and other US bases in Greece.
He complained about the expansive US military presence in Greece after the two countries signed a renewed Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) recently.
“Unfortunately, Alexandroupolis is not just one base – all of Greece has been transformed into a US base. I did not manage to count how many American bases there are in Greece. If we compile them, we get the sense that all of Greece is a US base,” he said.
“Why is all this happening? The US picked the wrong neighbour [to ally with] for themselves and their stance of choosing Greece as their base in the Aegean is wrong,” Erdogan said.