Ankara Informs Washington it Is Committed to Defending its Rights in East Med, Aegean

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. (EPA)
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. (EPA)
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Ankara Informs Washington it Is Committed to Defending its Rights in East Med, Aegean

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. (EPA)
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. (EPA)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chief adviser Ibrahim Kalin in Istanbul on Sunday.

The two, whose meeting was unannounced to the media beforehand, discussed various bilateral and international issues, topped by the developments in the Aegean and the Mediterranean and the tension between Türkiye and Greece.

Kalin stressed that his country would never hesitate to defend its rights and interests in the Aegean and the Mediterranean and deemed Greece’s aggressive acts against international law “unacceptable.”

They underscored the importance of increasing bilateral cooperation based on their mutual interests and in line with implementing the strategic mechanism between the two countries.

They affirmed that completing the F-16 process would serve the two countries’ strategic interests.

The two sides further underlined Türkiye’s key role within NATO and the importance that allies act in solidarity and harmony against common security risks and all terror threats.

Talks also touched on the importance of focusing on diplomatic efforts to end the war on Ukraine immediately and in accordance with the international law.

Progress on NATO accession for Finland and Sweden was also tackled.

Last week, Ankara summoned the Greek ambassador and protested to Washington after accusing Greece of deploying US armored vehicles on two Aegean islands near the Turkish coast.

Greece and Türkiye, which are both part of NATO, have feuded for years over maritime borders and energy exploration rights in the Aegean and east Mediterranean seas.

The latest escalation started when Turkish security sources shared aerial images purportedly showing ships loaded with US armored vehicles docking at two Greek islands, Lesbos and Samos.

The United States responded to the protest lodged by Türkiye and stressed on Wednesday that Greek sovereignty over two islands was not in doubt.

In a note to the US embassy in Ankara, Türkiye told Washington that its “weapons should not be used in breach” of the islands’ agreed status.

Ankara threatened to boost defenses of the Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island, two weeks after Washington lifted a decades-old arms embargo on the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government located in the south of the island.

Erdogan slammed the US stances on Greece’s arming of the Aegean islands that should, according to international law, be demilitarized, as well as the conflict in the East Mediterranean.

“The US, which overlooks and even encourages the steps by the Cypriot-Greek duo that threaten peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, will lead to an armament race on the island with this step,” Erdogan stressed.



Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
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Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)

Greece on Monday denied a new report that accused its coast guard of brutally preventing migrants from reaching Greek shores, which also alleged that the practice had resulted in dozens of deaths.

A BBC report said it had been ascertained that 43 migrants drowned — including nine who were thrown into the water — in 15 incidents off Greece's eastern Aegean Sea islands in 2020-2023. It cited interviews with eyewitnesses, following reports from media, charities and the Turkish coast guard.

Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis insisted that there was no evidence to support the allegations.

“Our understanding is that what is reported is not proved,” he told a regular press briefing when asked about the claims. “Every complaint is looked into, and in the end, the relevant findings are made public.”

Greece is a major gateway for migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking a better life in the affluent European Union. Thousands slip into the country every year, mostly in small boats from neighboring Türkiye. Relations with Türkiye are often tense, and the two countries' coast guards have repeatedly traded accusations of mistreating migrants.

Migrant charities and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Greece's coast guard and police of illegally preventing arriving migrants from seeking asylum by surreptitiously returning them to Turkish waters. Greece has angrily denied that, arguing its border forces have saved hundreds of thousands of migrants from sinking boats.

The country's reputation took a further knock in June 2023, when a battered fishing vessel with an estimated 750 people on board sank off southwestern Greece. Only 104 people survived, despite the Greek coast guard having shadowed the vessel for hours, and survivors claimed the trawler sank after a botched attempt by the coast guard to tow it. Greek authorities again denied these allegations.

The new BBC report included a claim by a Cameroonian man that he and two other migrants were picked up by masked men, including policemen, just after landing on the island of Samos.

The man claimed all three were put in a coast guard boat and thrown into the sea, and that the other two men drowned as a result.

The report also quoted a Syrian man who said he was part of a group picked up at sea by the Greek coast guard off Rhodes. He said the survivors were put in life rafts and left adrift in Turkish waters, where several died after one life raft sank before the Turkish coast guard came to pick them up.

Marinakis said “it is wrong to target” the Greek coast guard. “In any case, we monitor every report and investigation, but I repeat: What is mentioned (in the BBC report) is in no case backed up by evidence,” he said.