Good neighborly relations between Turkey and Greece are important and beneficial, not only for the two countries but also for all of Europe, Chancellor spokeswoman Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.
Steffen Seibert was speaking at a regular press conference in Berlin. Her remarks came a day before Merkel’s farewell visit to Athens, where she is due to meet Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.
Seibert said Berlin supports direct talks between Greece and Turkey, which aim to find diplomatic solutions to their bilateral problems and maritime disputes in the eastern Mediterranean.
“It is clear that solutions can only be found through talks, and in a spirit of mutual respect,” he said.
After 16 years in power, Merkel is preparing to step down from active politics later this year, but she will remain in her post until a new coalition government is formed following the September 26 general election.
The outgoing German Chancellor made great efforts last year to defuse tensions between the two NATO allies.
However, disputes between the two neighbors are still ongoing. More recently, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said Turkey was not respecting the terms of a pact signed with Brussels in 2016.
There should be no more refugee and smuggler boats in the Aegean Sea, Mitarakis said.
Turkey, for its part, has repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including including women and children.
Turkey’s five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are favorite places for refugees leaving Turkey for the European Union, with Greek islands within sight of the Turkish coast.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands of people have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean Sea in an attempt to reach Northern and Western Europe in search of a better life.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as a number of boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard command saved thousands more.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants wishing to enter Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start a new life. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale refoulements and summary deportations without migrants having access to asylum procedures, in violation of international law. He also accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye to this flagrant violation of human rights.
Yet recently EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said the EU expects Greece to investigate reports of refoulements of illegal migrants at its border.
“There seems to be, in (this) case, some sort of orchestration of violence at our external borders, and there seems to be compelling evidence of misuse of (EU) funds,” said Johansson, referring to the fact that the authorities in these countries have received significant financial support from the EU for the management of the external borders.
“It needs to be investigated.”
Refoulements are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which stipulate that people must not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety could be in danger because of their race, religion, nationality or affiliation. to a social or political group.