September 8, 2019 / 11:30 AM / 15 days ago

Turkey shouldn't coerce Greece, Europe over migrants: Greek PM

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during a news conference at the annual International Trade Fair of Thessaloniki, Greece, September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

THESSALONIKI, Greece (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday Turkey should not try to coerce either Greece or Europe in its attempts to get support for a plan to resettle Syrian refugees in northern Syria.

Turkey plans to resettle 1 million refugees there and may reopen the route for migrants into Europe if it does not receive adequate international support for the plan, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

“Mr Erdogan must understand that he cannot threaten Greece and Europe in an attempt to secure more resources to handle the refugee (issue),” Mitsotakis told a news conference in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.

“Europe has given a lot of money, six billion euros in recent years, within the framework of an agreement between Europe and Turkey and which was mutually beneficial,” he said.

Greece, which shares a long sea border with Turkey, was one of the frontline countries taking in many thousands of refugees and migrants at the peak of the migration crisis. In 2015, thousands of people were arriving on Greek shores every day.

The numbers dropped dramatically after the European Union and Ankara implemented a deal in March 2016 to cut off the flow, but there has been a recent uptick in arrivals on Greek outlying islands close to Turkey.

The number of monthly arrivals to Greece jumped in August to about 7,000, the highest in three years.

Turkey itself has nearly 4 million Syrians - by far the biggest group of refugees who have spilled over Syria’s borders to flee a more than eight-year-old civil war.

Mitsotakis said he could not rule out a discussion in the “spirit of goodwill” at a European level with Turkey on how to extend the financial benefits of the 2016 deal. But this would not happen, he said, while Greece was on the receiving end of “threats” and “bullying” behavior.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou, George Georgiopoulos and Michele Kambas; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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