Greek PM meets with Turkish leaders over refugee crisis

Greek Prime Minister speaks at joint conference with Turkish prime minister over influx of refugees who have been crossing from Turkey to Greece

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (Right) shakes hand with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (Left) at Cankaya Palace in Ankara, Turkey on November 18, 2015.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara on Wednesday as Greece struggles to cope with the economic burden of hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing to the Greek islands from Turkey.  

Tsipras speaking at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart said Greece and Turkey must increase joint efforts to fight against people smugglers who are carrying hundreds of thousands of refugees into Europe from Turkey through the Greek islands.

"We need to take more steps towards coordination, understanding in order to effectively hit the smuggling rings which are an insult against human dignity," Tsipras said.

At least 650,000 refugees fleeing war and poverty from different parts of the world have entered Europe this year alone, taking a risky sea voyage across choppy Mediterranean waters on unsafe boats.

Tsipras also noted that Greece sees Turkey's bid to join the European Union "in a positive light" as long as the required conditions are met. 

European Union leaders have agreed to discuss a €3 billion ($3.23 billion) deal with Turkey for refugee support and to help stem the influx of people fleeing the Syrian conflict.

Turkey has spent about $8 billion so far in accommodating the around 2.5 million refugees it hosts.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaking at the joint press conference said Turkey and Greece have an opportunity to act on rectifying the partition of Cyprus.

"There is a window of opportunity right now over the Cyprus issue. The negotiations are going on. We have a common approach with Greece to contribute positively to the talks," he said. 

Turkey has maintained a military presence in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) since 1974 after exercising its right as a guarantor of peace on the island in accordance with the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, which was signed with Britain and Greece. 

The military intervention came after a coup led by the Greek junta overthrew the island’s government in a bid to unite Cyprus with Greece. 

During the two-month campaign that started in July 1974, Turkey secured the northern third of the island which became a safe haven for Turkish Cypriots who had been ousted from the previously joint government with the Greek Cypriots in 1963. 

However, a coup toppling the Cypriot government orchestrated by the Greek nationalist militant group EOKA-B and the Greek military junta in a bid to annex the island to Greece sparked a reaction from Turkey, which on July 20, 1974, launched an operation to secure the island’s north as a safe haven for the Turkish Cypriot community.

Turkey has since then maintained a military presence in the island’s breakaway north, which declared independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983.

Tsipras watched a friendly soccer match between Turkey and Greece with Turkey’s prime minister after he arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday evening.

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu watch an international friendly soccer match between Turkey and Greece at Basaksehir Fatih Terim stadium in Istanbul, Turkey [Reuters].

On Wednesday, he visited Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Bartholomew in Istanbul before he departed to Ankara. 

Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew meets Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey, November 18, 2015 [Reuters].

Bartholomew, speaking to press after the meeting, said they discussed the refugee crisis and several other issues concerning patriarchate's relations with Greece. 

The Greek prime minister is also expected to meet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his two day visit. 

TRTWorld and agencies