ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s president on Wednesday made the incendiary claim that the Greek authorities’ alleged mistreatment of migrants at its border was comparable to “what the Nazis did,” and said he would denounce Greece’s action at international platforms.
In his weekly address to his ruling party’s legislators, Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said there would be no change to his government’s policy of allowing migrants to cross into Europe, until the European Union fulfills obligations set out in a 2016 Turkish-EU deal that helped stem a migrant crisis.
Thousands of migrants massed on Turkey’s border with Greece, after the Turkish government said last month that it would no longer try to contain migrants on its territory.
To prevent the crossings, Athens deployed riot police and border guards who in many cases used tear gas, flash grenades and water cannons. Several clashes have erupted between the migrants and the Greek forces. Greece says that Turkish security forces fired tear gas from the other side of the border at Greek officers.
Erdogan said Greece’s actions have resulted in four migrants’ deaths and that around 1,000 were injured. Greece denies accusations of mistreatment.
“There is no difference with what the Nazis did and the images from the border with Greece,” Erdogan said. “To open fire, fire tear gas and use boiling water on innocent people whose only aim is to save their lives and build a better future for their children is barbaric in the true meaning of the word.”
Under the 2016 agreement, the EU offered Turkey up to 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in aid for the Syrian refugees it hosts, fast-tracked EU membership as well as a revision of Customs Union agreement.
“We will continue the current (open borders) measure on our borders until all of our expectations are concretely met,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan’s comments came days after he traveled to Brussels for talks with top EU officials after which the sides agreed that teams headed by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu would review the 4-year-old migration deal.
Cavusoglu said Tuesday the teams would try and come up with a “road map” in time for a EU summit on March 26.
The Turkish president has in the past also compared other European countries, notably German and the Netherlands to Nazis, sparking tensions with these nations.