Greece accuses Turkey of trying to provoke them with migrant boats

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece on Friday accused Turkey of trying to provoke them by attempting to push boats carrying migrants into Greek waters.

Greece and Turkey disagree on a number of issues, including energy resources in the Mediterranean, and tensions between NATO allies increased last year when thousands of asylum seekers in Turkey tried to storm Greece’s land border.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said the Greek Coast Guard reported several incidents on Friday in which the Turkish Coast Guard and Navy escorted migrant boats “to the European border to provoke an escalation” with Greece.

“There is no doubt that these migrants left the Turkish coasts and were not at risk given that they were supported by Turkey,” Mitarachi said in a recorded statement.

“We call on Turkey to step back and stop this unjustified provocation.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it was unaware of the incident, while the Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Turkey has also accused Greece of “molesting” and “provocative measures” with its ships in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Greek coast guard said that in an incident, a boat carrying migrants accompanied by a Turkish coast guard vessel attempted to enter Greek territorial waters on Friday. In another case, two Turkish ships tried to push a dinghy carrying migrants into Greek waters.

In a third incident off the island of Lesbos, a Turkish coast guard ship entered Greek territorial waters and harassed a Greek patrol boat.

Almost a million asylum seekers, mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, traveled by boat from Turkey to Greece at the start of the European migration crisis in 2015. A year later, the EU signed an agreement with Ankara to contain the electricity and the numbers fell dramatically.

Mitarachi called on Turkey to “meet” its obligations under the agreement.

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