Turkey slams EU official’s statement on refugees, border dispute

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Wednesday slammed statements made by Margaritis Schinas, European Commission Vice President for Promoting Our European Way of Life, who said Turkey had failed in its standoff with European Union member Greece over refugees.

The rebuke from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy came as Greek news site Ekathimerini reported that Greece was mulling whether to lodge a demarche against Turkey over a territory dispute on the border between the two countries.

Aksoy said the comments made by Schinas, a Greek EU commissioner who spoke about Turkey in an interview with Euronews on Monday, “resemble more of the political discourse of the members of the Greek government rather than an EU official”.

Turkey announced in late February it would no longer prevent migrants trying to reach Europe, a move that led to violent clashes between Greek border police and refugees. Greek officials in March said they had stopped nearly 10,000 migrants crossing the land border with Turkey.

Ankara’s decision was perceived as an attempt to drum up more EU aid for the roughly 4 million refugees inside Turkey, and to rally European support for Turkey’s military campaign in Idlib, Syria.

Aksoy said the EU Commission had not carried out a “serious investigation on human rights violations and push-backs at the EU borders until now”.

The ministry spokesperson called on Schinas to first probe the death of a Pakistani migrant who Turkey accuses Greek border officials of killing, Greek violations of international conventions for asylum-seekers, violence against “human rights defenders” and ongoing incidents in the Aegean Sea and River Evros, where a high traffic of refugees attempt to cross into the European bloc via Greece.

“Turkey is not and will not be the border guard or refugee camp of the EU,” Aksoy said, adding that perceiving Greece as the European bloc’s border is equivalent to “standing totally aloof of historical and geographical realities”.

Meanwhile, Greece was considering its options over a territory dispute in Melissokomeio, near the southern part of the River Evros, where Turkish police forces have held a steady presence in recent weeks and are blocking the efforts by Hellenic Army’s geographical service to expand a border fence, Ekathimerini said.

A section of the border drawn between Turkey and Greece follows the river, which changes during flooding season, and is therefore “virtually impossible to pinpoint clear-cut boundaries using traditional geodetic instruments”, the Greek news site said.