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More clashes on Turkish border as Greek police look to repel migrants

Tear gas and water cannon were used in a bid to foil crossings.


Greek army guard at the Greek-Turkish border in Kastanies, Evros region (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Greek army guard at the Greek-Turkish border in Kastanies, Evros region (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Greek army guard at the Greek-Turkish border in Kastanies, Evros region (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Clashes erupted anew on the Greek-Turkish border as migrants attempted to push through into Greece, while the European Union’s foreign ministers held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation on the border and in Syria, where Turkish troops are fighting.

Greek authorities used tear gas and a water cannon to repulse an attempt by migrants to push through the border from Turkey in the morning, while Turkish authorities fired volleys of tear gas onto the Greek side of the frontier.

Thousands of refugees and other migrants have been trying to get into Greece through the country’s eastern land and sea borders over the past week, after Turkey declared its previously guarded borders with Europe were open.

Turkey has said it is deploying 1,000 special forces police on its side of the border to prevent Greek authorities from pushing back migrants who manage to cross into Greece.

Virus Outbreak The Migrant Conundrum
Migrants gather at an abandoned building (Emrah Gurel/AP)

Many have been camping out on the Turkish side, hoping to cross despite Greek insistence that its border is closed.

Reporters were being kept away from the border area on the Turkish side, but saw at least one bus full of people leaving the area Friday morning.

It was unclear where the bus was headed.

After months of threats, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now said his country will no longer be the gatekeeper for Europe.

He has demanded that Europe shoulder more of the burden of caring for refugees, although the EU insists it is abiding by a deal in which it disbursed billions of euros for care in return for Turkey keeping the refugees on its soil.

His decision and its aftermath have alarmed governments in Europe, which is still seeing political fallout from mass migration that started five years ago.

Mr Erdogan’s move came amid a Syrian government offensive in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, where Turkish troops are fighting.

The Russia-backed offensive has killed dozens of Turkish troops and sent nearly a million Syrian civilians toward Turkey’s sealed border.

Russia Turkey Syria
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a joint news conference followed six-hour talks in the Kremlin (AP)

A ceasefire in Idlib brokered by Mr Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday went into effect at midnight.

It was not clear whether the agreement would also affect the situation on the Turkish-Greek border.

Greek officials have repeatedly stressed that those attempting to cross the border are not refugees from Idlib, and mostly not Syrian.

European Union foreign ministers were holding an emergency meeting in Zagreb, Croatia to discuss Syria and the border situation.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell welcomed the ceasefire brokered by the Turkish and Russian leaders.

“Let’s see how it works, that is the precondition in order to increase humanitarian help for the people in Idlib,” he said.

Mr Borrell said the EU needs to improve relations with Turkey and Russia, adding the ministers will discuss more funds for Turkey.

He would not provide details or say how many countries support or oppose the idea.

“Turkey is having a big burden, four million people, we have to understand that,” Mr Borrell said.

“But at the same time we cannot accept migrants being used as a source of pressure.”