EU pushes Erdogan to release Greek soldiers and to stop provoking Cyprus
The European Union’s top officials, in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria, asked him to release two Greek soldiers arrested for accidentally crossing the border and to stop provoking Cyprus where warships are blocking foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas.
But Erdogan, with the EU needing Turkey not to flood Greece with more refugees and migrants, didn’t commit to anything at the same time he said the bloc’s leaders should instead trying bring his country into the fold after more than a decade of negotiations.
Erdogan has been stepping up provocations in the Aegean, sending fighter jets into Greek airspace repeatedly, warships past Greek islands, and keeping up a partial blockade of Cyprus and the EU has responded by offering him another 3 billion euros ($3.73 billion) to help deal with tides of refugees and migrants streaming in from the Middle East and Africa.
They are fleeing war and strife and poor economic conditions and use Turkey as a jumping off point to get to Europe, almost always by first making the perilous journey across the Aegean to nearby Greek islands.
Europe has closed its borders to them, dumping the problem on Greece during a nearly eight-year-long economic and austerity crisis, with more than 64,000 stuck in the country, including some 15,000 on the islands, and most seeking asylum.