Greek PM rejects Turkey’s threats over refugees

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech at a rally of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on March 15, 2019. Xinhua

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AFP) – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis rejected Sunday Turkish “threats” to let Syrian refugees come en masse to Europe unless more international aid was provided and called for neighbourly dialogue instead.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “cannot threaten Europe and Greece on the question of refugees to try and obtain more money… Europe has already given six billion euros” to help deal with the issue, Mitsotakis told a press conference in Thessaloniki, northern Greece.

He said talks with Turkey “should not take place with threats” but rather in good faith with “language used by good neighbours.”

On Thursday, Erdogan pressed for more funds to take care of more than four million refugees in Turkey, of which more than 3.5 million have come from Syria.

Turkey fears a fresh influx of refugees as the Syrian government advances into the last rebel stronghold of Idlib.

Ankara wants to create a “security zone” in Syria to which refugees could return.

Failing an increase in aid, “we may be forced” to allow refugees greater access to Greece and other European Union countries, Erdogan warned.

“Either you help us or you dont, but I’m sorry, there are limits to what we can put up with,” he said.

In 2016, the EU and Turkey agreed to stem a massive inflow of migrants and refugees towards Europe via Greek islands that lie close to Turkey.

The numbers climbed again this year however, prompting the new conservative Greek government led by Mitsotakis to say it would accelerate a procedure used to examine asylum requests, which would likely result in more refusals and more people being sent back to Turkey.

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