BY DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
Ankara on Tuesday rejected claims made by Athens that a Turkish offshore vessel displayed weapons and obstructed search and rescue operations by entering Greek waters in the Aegean.
The claims stem from an Oct. 31 incident in which a boat was assigned to carry out search and rescue operations in the south of Samos Island to find eight missing people, the Turkish Coast Guard Command said in a statement.
Turkish forces were dispatched to the location upon notification that a body was detected in the sea by a Saint Kitts and Nevis-flagged commercial ship, Petro Bulk, it added.
The body was taken from the sea at 11:35 p.m. local time and transferred to Kuşadası Port to carry out necessary procedures, it said.
“Contrary to what was claimed by the Greek authorities, the body was taken by the Turkish Coast Guard Boat in the Turkish search and rescue region and international waters declared to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) under the 1979 Hamburg International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue,” it added.
“It is very obvious that the attitude adopted by the Greek Coast Guard personnel is against international law as well as against human rights at a level that will hurt the conscience of the whole world public opinion,” it said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Greece’s shipping minister, Ioannis Plakiotakis, accused Türkiye of “still allowing rings of ruthless traffickers to send our fellow human beings to their deaths.”
Greece was on the front line of a European migration crisis in 2015 when about a million refugees fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrived in the country.
The number of arrivals has fallen since 2016, when the European Union signed a deal with Türkiye to stop the flows, but Greek authorities say they have recently seen an increase in attempted entries through the country’s islands and land border with Türkiye.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
Pushbacks are contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.