Greece cau­tious over joint pa­trols in the Aegean

EU nears deal with Tur­key on refugees

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Euro­pean Union lead­ers ap­peared poised to make con­ces­sions to Ankara to se­cure its co­op­er­a­tion in curb­ing mi­gra­tion into the bloc yesterday as Greece re­mained cau­tious on the prospect of work­ing with Tur­key in the Aegean.

Un­der­scor­ing the re­lent­less na­ture of the prob­lem, as EU lead­ers met in Brus­sels, seven mi­grants drowned off the coast of Lesvos in the eastern Aegean.

Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras used his pres­ence at the sum­mit to call for help. “Sup­port for Europe’s front­line coun­tries, with re­spect and sol­i­dar­ity to the refugees, is for our com­mon Euro­pean in­ter­est,” he said. As for calls by EU of­fi­cials for joint Greek-Turk­ish pa­trols in the Aegean, Tsipras was cau­tious, say­ing Greece was ready to co­op­er­ate with Tur­key “al­ways on the base of in­ter­na­tional law and the in­tegrity of the ac­ces­sion process.” “But first of all now it’s time to take brave po- lit­i­cal ini­tia­tives in or­der to solve the Syr­ian cri­sis, in or­der to try to stop these waves of refugees in the Mediter­ranean,” he added.

Tsipras’s com­ments came as For­eign Min­is­ter Nikos Kotzias ruled out the prospect of Greece pa­trolling the Aegean with Tur­key. “This would mean Turk­ish ves­sels en­ter­ing our ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters, a move which could have long-term con­se­quences,” he said.

Re­ports last night sug­gested that Turk­ish of­fi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion meet­ing in Ankara were close to agree­ing a pack­age of con­ces­sions from the EU in re­turn for closer co­op­er­a­tion on stem­ming the flow of refugees via Tur­key.

The deal would prob­a­bly see Tur­key re­ceiv­ing sig­nif­i­cant new fund­ing from the EU for tack­ling the refugee cri­sis but Ankara also re­quested visa-free travel for Turks and the open­ing of six new “chap- ters” in its ac­ces­sion talks with Brus­sels. Any fi­nal agree­ment would have to be ap­proved by the 28-mem­ber Euro­pean Coun­cil.

Mean­while, the seven peo­ple who drowned off the coast of Lesvos had been among dozens of mi­grants on a wooden boat try­ing to get to Greece from Tur­key. The boat col­lided with a Hel­lenic Coast Guard ves­sel off the is­land’s north­ern coast.

Greek coast guard of­fi­cers re­cov- ered the bod­ies of two women, a man, three chil­dren and a baby fol­low­ing the col­li­sion, which hap­pened just af­ter 11 a.m. Another 31 peo­ple were res­cued and one more per­son was miss­ing, ac­cord­ing to the tes­ti­monies of the sur­vivors.

It was un­clear what caused the col­li­sion of the two boats. Ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial at the Ship­ping Min­istry, the wooden boat hit the coast guard ves­sel which had been sent to res­cue the mi­grants. The tragic in­ci­dent came just a day af­ter another three mi­grants – a woman, a child and a baby – drowned off Lesvos.

Euro­pean Immigration and Home Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Dim­itris Avramopou­los is due on Lesvos to­day, with Euro­pean Par­lia­ment Pres­i­dent Martin Schulz and Lux­em­bourg For­eign Min­is­ter Jean As­sel­born. The del­e­ga­tion is ex­pected to in­spect re­cep­tion fa­cil­i­ties on the is­land.

A wooden boat car­ry­ing mi­grants from Tur­key to Lesvos sinks in the Aegean yesterday af­ter col­lid­ing with a Hel­lenic Goast Guard pa­trol ves­sel. Seven peo­ple drowned and one was thought to be miss­ing as a re­sult of the col­li­sion.

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