Turkey dealt with major blow as Greece plots extension of border fence

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In a blow to Ankara, the 40-kilometres fence will be extended by another 140 kilometres, Greece’s Takis Theodorikakos said during a visit in the region of Evros on Tuesday.

The fence, initially installed in 2012, was last extended in 2021, a year after tens of thousands of asylum seekers tried to cross into the European Union through Greece’s northern border, when Turkey said it would no longer prevent them from doing so.

Historic rivals while also NATO allies, Greece and Turkey have been at odds over a range of issues, including migration and energy resources in recent years.

Greece was the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 and 2016 when a million refugees fleeing war and poverty from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrived, mainly via Turkey.

The number of arrivals has fallen sharply since then, but in recent months, Greek authorities said they have stopped a significant number of people from entering.

According to police data, in the first seven months of the year, authorities arrested 7,484 refugees and migrants, of which 3,554 were in Evros.

Theorodikakos said the project aims to send a clear message of Greece’s determination “against those who invest in human suffering to serve concealed interests” and “against those who weaponise migration in an attempt to blackmail Europe”.

The conservative government also plans to hire 250 border guards and upgrade its surveillance systems in the area.

Tensions between the two nations also escalated on Wednesday after Greece sent letters to NATO and the United Nations, complaining over what it called “inflammatory” statements by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and asking them to condemn Ankara’s behaviour, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

On Monday, the European Union voiced concern over statements by Erdogan accusing Greece, an EU member, of occupying demilitarised islands in the Aegean and saying Turkey was ready to “do what is necessary” when the time came.

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“The continuous hostile remarks by the political leadership of Turkey against Greece…raise serious concerns and fully contradict much needed de-escalation efforts in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Peter Stano, spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, said in a statement.

“Threats and aggressive rhetoric are unacceptable and need to stop,” he added, underlining EU demands that differences be settled peacefully and in full respect of international law.

“The EU reiterates its expectation from Turkey to seriously work on de-escalating tensions in a sustainable way in the interest of regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU member states,” Mr Stano said.

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According to Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency, Ankara sent letters this week to the European Union, NATO and the United Nations explaining its stance and views on issues including overlapping claims on airspace, territorial waters and the demilitarisation status of the Aegean islands, among other issues.

Greek diplomatic sources said on Wednesday Turkey’s letter distorted reality and its arguments were unfounded and violated international law. Greece, they said, has also sent letters to the United Nations and NATO.

“The Turkish attitude is a destabilising factor for NATO’s unity and cohesion, weakening the southern flank of the Alliance at a moment of crisis,” Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias said in a letter to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

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