BRUSSELS, (BM) – The meeting of NATO foreign ministers held on April 3 via a teleconference due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic ended in scandal – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu left the virtual event earlier than all the other participants after disputes with Greece over migrants, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Izvestia.
The diplomat recalled that an agreement was concluded between Ankara and the European Union in 2016, which obliged Turkey to accept about four million refugees from Syria and other countries of the Middle East, and not allow them to go to Europe.
In exchange for this, the EU promised to provide Turkey with assistance in the amount of € 6 billion and provide other preferences, such as a visa-free regime for Turkish citizens. Cavusoglu stressed that the EU has not fulfilled its part of the deal.
“We advise them to think about the long term, because it is not just a matter of migration,” he said, demanding from Europe liberalization of the visa regime, updating the agreement on the customs union and strengthening the fight against terrorism.
After that, he accused Greece of killing migrants trying to cross the common border of countries. In response, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias indicated that Ankara’s claims are specially organized propaganda for political purposes and have fake news.
“Greece faced an organized and unprecedented attack on its border and a disinformation campaign from Turkey. The methods used by Turkey violated the values of NATO. All allies have the right to call for NATO solidarity, but only if they fulfill their obligations,” the Greek diplomat emphasized.
Cavusoglu demanded to give him the opportunity to answer, but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stopped this attempt, so as not to contribute to inciting scandal online. The Turkish Foreign Minister, in response, disconnected from the conference.
In late February, Turkey paved the way for thousands of refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries to Europe, which worried European leaders.
Migrants through Turkish territory headed to Greece and Bulgaria, who had to urgently strengthen their borders. The media estimated the total flow of refugees at about a million people. About 200 thousand migrants were able to break into Europe.
The harsh measures of the Greek authorities, which allowed the use of water cannons, tear gas and even plastic bullets against refugees, helped to keep the flow. Brussels fully supported the efforts of Athens, and also sent additional units to Frontex – the EU agency for the security of external borders.
The BBC published a video showing how the Greek coast guard shoots into the water near an inflatable boat with refugees. Border guards, while on a boat, also repel the boat with a long pole so that it returns. On the frames there are those who managed to break through to the shores of the Greek island. Locals shout behind the scenes to let the refugees go back.
The use of tear gas by Greek border guards received condemnation from Turkey. EU leaders, meanwhile, thanked Athens for serving as a shield for Europe from refugees.
“This border is not only the border of Greece, but also the border of Europe … I thank Greece for being our European side (shield) during these times,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, in a meeting with the Prime Minister in March Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakisom.
Turkey has long served as a buffer to the flow of migrants, by the end of February there were about 3.6 million refugees in its territory. Ankara’s decision opened the way for them to Europe and almost put the EU in the face of another crisis.
The Turkish authorities did not take such a step by accident, but against the background of an aggravation of the situation in Idlib. In February, the Turkish military more than once fell under the shelling of the Syrian army, which greatly bothered Ankara. Erdogan tried to draw the attention of European leaders to the problem and probably decided to resort to tough measures.
The Idlib crisis was resolved during the talks between the Turkish leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 5. The region is currently undergoing a ceasefire. At the same time, how long the lull will last is difficult to predict.
At the end of last year, Greece criticized the statement of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made at the opening ceremony of the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) that Ankara will not stop its exploration of energy and offshore drilling in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus.
This statement was the beginning of the scandal – the Greek delegation, led by Deputy Minister of Energy Dimitris Ikonomu, left the opening ceremony of the TANAP gas pipeline. Athens called the Turkish side “the main violator of international law in the Mediterranean region.”
The President of Turkey was personally accused by Athens of turning the peace project into an instrument of “demonstrating military rhetoric.”
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