Greece and Turkey agreed on Wednesday on closer coordination in addressing the refugee crisis but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was not able to secure a commitment during his visit to Ankara that the Turkish government will accept the creation of so-called hotspots on its territory.
On the second and final day of his visit to Turkey, Tsipras held talks with his counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, before meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for about 40 minutes.
Tsipras and Davutoglu held a joint press conference after their meeting. They agreed that the two countries have to work more closely to tackle human traffickers and prevent refugees and migrants from drowning as they sail from Turkish shores in the hope of reaching the Greek islands.
“Our first priority should be to end the humanitarian tragedy in the Aegean Sea,” said Tsipras. “We need to take more steps toward coordination, understanding in order to effectively hit the smuggling rings which are an insult against human dignity. They do not hesitate to jeopardize people’s lives.”
Tsipras revealed that the two sides had agreed to create a new position at each country’s embassies so that coast guard attaches could be installed in Athens and Ankara.
The prime minister said that cooperation between the Greek and Turkish coast guards would begin “straightaway.”
There was also an agreement for officials from the two countries’ interior, public order and migration policy ministries to form joint committees to tackle the refugee crisis.
However, Tsipras did not appear to have made a breakthrough in convincing Davutoglu to allow the relocation of refugees to take place from camps, or hotspots, in Turkey rather than in Greece. Athens has argued over the last few weeks that this would be the best way of tackling the problem but Davutoglu appeared to bypass this request and, instead, highlight the need for the war in Syria to be brought to an end.
“Neither Turkey nor Greece are responsible for the refugee crisis,” Davutoglu said. “They are both the victims of the Syrian crisis.”
He called for a political solution to end the bloodshed in Syria, and said: “A final solution passes through Damascus.”
It was revealed on Wednesday that Greek authorities were questioning two Syrian men who had arrived on Kos on Tuesday as part of a larger group of migrants.
Coast guard officers deemed their behavior suspicious so the two men were handed over to National Intelligence Service (EYP) agents before being transferred to Athens for further questioning. Authorities said they found pictures of fighting in Iraq and Syria on their mobile phones but had not discovered any links with terrorist groups.
The mood during Tsipras’s talks with Davutoglu was said to be warm, and both men spoke encouragingly about the prospects for successful reunification talks on Cyprus.
“There is a window of opportunity right now over the Cyprus issue,” said the Turkish premier. “We have a common approach with Greece to contribute positively to the talks.”