Erdogan orders coast guard to stop migrants crossing Aegean

Daily News Egypt
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the coast guard to prevent migrants crossing the Aegean Sea, state media reported late Friday.

“On the orders of the president… permission will not be given for migrants to cross the Aegean Sea because it is dangerous,” Anadolu news agency quoted the coast guard as saying.

Crossings from Turkey to Lesbos have surged in recent weeks after Turkey declared it would not stop migrants from attempting to reach the European Union.

Turkey hosts nearly 4 million refugees from the Syrian war, and has a deal with the EU to prevent them from moving into the bloc.

Turkey claims the EU has failed to honour its promises and also wants support in Syria where it is fighting Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

Tens of thousands of people have attempted to cross into the country, mainly through the land border, but also via the Aegean Sea into Lesbos.

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday said a landmark EU-Turkey agreement to curb irregular migration to the bloc had effectively collapsed.

“Right now, let’s be honest, the agreement is dead,” Mitsotakis told US broadcaster CNN. “And it’s dead because Turkey has decided to completely violate the agreement because of what happened in Syria.”

Tensions have risen at the Greek-Turkish land border after tens of thousands of migrants gathered there in the hopes of crossing into the EU. But European officials have accused Turkey of enabling people’s attempts to cross the border illegally.

“They have systematically assisted, both at land and at sea, people in their effort to cross into Greece,” said Mitsotakis. “Europe is not going to be blackmailed over this problem by Turkey.”

Earlier on Friday, EU foreign ministers met to express their “full solidarity with Greece,” saying the country faces “an unprecedented situation.”

“The situation at the EU external border is not acceptable. The EU and its Member States remain determined to effectively protect the EU’s external borders. Illegal crossings will not be tolerated,” said the Foreign Affairs Council in a statement released after the meeting.

In 2016, the EU made a deal with Turkey that effectively closed the so-called Balkan route, once considered the main pathway for hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war in Syria.

In exchange for keeping people from crossing into Greece, the EU offered Turkey €6 billion ($6.8 billion) along with trade and travel incentives as part of the deal.

But the Turkish president told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday that the EU-Turkey deal needed to be revised because the terms of the agreement were no longer effective, according to a statement from his office.

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