Turkey‘s ruling party on April 19 slammed recent remarks by the Greek foreign minister as both rude and prejudiced.
Nikos Dendias’ “extremely bigoted accusations against our nation” last week will stand out in diplomatic history as an example of lack of propriety, Ömer Çelik, spokesman for AKP, told reporters in the capital Ankara after a meeting of the party’s Central Executive Board.
Dendias made the accusatory remarks at a press conference with Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, during a visit to Turkey last week. Çavuşoğlu immediately lashed out at the remarks, saying Dendias had crossed the line by making “unacceptable accusations,” spoiling the visit’s “positive tone.”
On Greece‘s controversial policy on asylum seekers, Çelik also accused the Greek Coast Guard of trying to pour gasoline on asylum seekers and burn them, as well as of pushing back over 80,000 asylum seekers in the last three years.
On Saturday, the Turkish Coast Guard Command said on its website that coast guard teams were dispatched to rescue 41 asylum seekers off Izmir, including one with a burn on his leg.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu also wrote on Twitter that Greek forces “seek to burn people, pouring gasoline on them,” posting footage of an asylum seeker recounting the attempted burning.
Turkey and human rights groups have 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 women and children.
If not for the Turkish Coast Guard, the Mediterranean Sea could have turned into a “grave” for the asylum seekers, Çelik said.
According to Çelik, Greece is trying to turn its issues with Turkey into issues between Turkey and the EU. He called on EU officials to urgently respond to the actions of the Greek Coast Guard.
Istanbul conference on Afghan peace process
Çelik also spoke on an Afghan peace conference in the Turkish metropolis Istanbul set to start this Saturday.
The high-level conference between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban is being co-convened by Turkey, Qatar, and the U.N., he added.
Çelik highlighted the importance of ensuring peace in Afghanistan for Turkey’s national security.
“Because the instability in Afghanistan … poses a threat to Turkey in terms of immigration, drug trafficking, and terrorism,” he added.
“Therefore, in terms of our national security, our support to the Afghanistan peace process is strategic support,” Çelik said.
According to Çelik, hosting such a conference is also important as Turkey has deep-rooted relations with its “sister country” Afghanistan.
“We support the emergence of a roadmap for a political solution,” he added.
Asked about the tension between Russia and Ukraine, Çelik said: “We want this tension to be resolved through diplomacy within the framework of the trilateral contact group between Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE,” or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Tension has escalated in the region over Russia’s military buildup along its border with Ukraine.
Çelik also reiterated Turkey’s support for the Palestinians, saying: “We will continue to protect the rights of … our Palestinian brothers, and take necessary action on the issue.”
Hurriyet Daily News