Tag Archives: Greece

Just in: End provocation against Greece – Germany, U.S asks Turkey.

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“Coercion, threats, intimidation and military activity will not resolve tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Turkey’s two key Western allies, the United States and Germany, on Tuesday urged it to pull back a ship it has returned to waters contested with Greece, with Washington denouncing the “calculated provocation.”

The Turkish navy said Sunday that the Oruc Reis exploration vessel was heading back to energy-rich eastern Mediterranean waters between the Greek island of Crete and Cyprus, weeks after it left amid an agreement for talks.

In a strongly-worded statement, the State Department said the US “deplores” the decision by Turkey and noted that Greece “asserts jurisdiction” over areas where the ship plans to operate through October 22.

“We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“Turkey’s announcement unilaterally raises tensions in the region and deliberately complicates the resumption of crucial exploratory talks between our NATO allies Greece and Turkey,” she said.

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Turkey last sent the ship into contested waters in August backed by warships, alarming both Greece and Cyprus, which is partially occupied by Ankara.

Greece responded by staging military exercises but tensions eased when both Ankara and Athens agreed to talk through the crisis.

Greece said Tuesday there could be no diplomatic solution until the ship is withdrawn.

Greece “will not sit at the table for exploratory talks while the Oruc Reis and escorting warships are out there,” Minister of State George Gerapetritis told Parapolitika radio.

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He said Athens would “emphatically” raise the dispute at a European council meeting starting Thursday.

Germany steps up tone
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month said that the withdrawal of the ship was a chance to give diplomacy a chance.

But Turkish officials also insisted the ship was only undergoing planned maintenance and would return to the eastern Mediterranean to continue its work.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, speaking ahead of a trip to Cyprus and Greece, said that Turkey “must end the cycle of detente and provocation if the government is interested in talks.”

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“If there should be renewed Turkish gas exploration in the more controversial sea areas in the eastern Mediterranean, this would be a serious setback for efforts to de-escalate,” Maas said.

While France has staunchly backed Greece throughout the standoff with Turkey, Germany had irked many Greeks in August with what they perceived as a low-key response by Europe’s largest economic power.

Erdogan has a cordial relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has worked with Turkey both on stemming the flow of Syrian and other refugees into Europe and over the crisis in Libya.

Erdogan has also cultivated close ties with US President Donald Trump, who said of the Turkish leader in an interview for investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s latest book: “The tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them.”

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The US relationship has nonetheless been expanding quickly with Athens, in part over its growing embrace of US ally Israel.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month visited Greece in a show of support in which he voiced hope over then easing tensions with Turkey.

Under Erdogan, Turkey has been newly assertive on multiple fronts, not just against historic rival Greece.

Erdogan in recent weeks has encouraged Azerbaijan in its campaign to end “occupation” of the Nagorno-Karabakh area by Armenia as the neighbours engage in their most serious fighting since 1994.


#Newsworthy…

Moria Inferno: Thousands of Greek Refugees move to new Lesbos camp.

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Some are reluctant to enter the new site, fearing poor conditions and worried their movement may be further limited.

Names marked with an asterisk* have been changed to protect identities.

Police on the Greek island of Lesbos have launched an operation to rehouse thousands of refugees and migrants who have been sleeping rough after their camp was destroyed by fire.

Officers on Thursday morning woke people in their tents to take them to a temporary centre that was hastily set up after Europe’s largest camp for asylum seekers at Moria burned down last week.

The new Kara Tepe camp, near the island’s main town Mytilene, was made on a former military firing range and is close to the remains of the Moria site.

But many have refused to go, fearing living conditions would be as bad or worse than at Moria, which was notoriously unsafe, and worried they would be left waiting for months to have their requests for asylum processed and transferred to the Greek mainland or another European country.

Riot police and police vans were parked on either side of a street where thousands who fled the Moria camp have been living.

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Quietly, with the sounds of children crying and under an already hot sun, people folded their blankets, picked up bags containing whatever belongings they had saved from the fire and dismantled their tents.

Women and children with bundles on their backs were seen gathering by a barricade police had set up on the road.

Some mothers pushed their babies in prams up the road as other refugees took shelter from the morning sun in the shade of a large building, or washed with water bottles on the roadside.

“The aim is to safeguard public health,” police spokesman Theodoros Chronopoulos told AFP news agency, confirming that “an operation is under way” which “responds to humanitarian aims.”

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But Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which opened an emergency clinic in the area, said it was barred from accessing its facility during the night, as rumours of the police operation spread.

“A police operation is under way to take refugees to the new camp. This should not prevent medical aid,” MSF complained on Twitter.

More than 12,000 people including entire families with elderly and newborns were left homeless when fire tore through the overcrowded and unsanitary Moria camp – built five years ago at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis – on the night of September 8.

Thousands have been sleeping under tarpaulins or tents at roadsides and in the car parks of closed supermarkets since the blaze.

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Late Wednesday, around 1,000 tents, each able to accommodate between eight and 10 people, had been erected at the new site.

The atmosphere on Thursday morning was calm, with people exhausted from spending a week on the street. Families collected their belongings, some pushing them in large bins or supermarket trolleys, in preparation for the move.

At the start of the operation, single men were not allowed to enter the new camp.

Farhad*, is 20 and alone in Greece, having fled war in Afghanistan.

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Even if he was allowed in, he told Media he does not want to enter Kara Tepe.

“I’ve been in Moria for nine months and again, if we enter the camp, [maybe] it will be for a year, too. I’m losing my youth just waiting.”

Other families have accepted their new reality.

“We hear there is food and water there,” said Abdul*, who has five children.

His family is tired of living on the street waiting for help that never seems to arrive and believes there is no other option.

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Six young Afghans have been arrested in connection with the incident, with four of them brought before a Lesbos magistrate on Wednesday.

Medical tents were to be set up, and two quarantine zones were planned for the several dozen people who have tested positive for coronavirus.

“We have seen a lot of people come in hazmat suits trying to talk to people, to convince them to go to the camps. People are moving. Not everyone is moving, but people are moving,”

“A lot of people we have been speaking to this morning still don’t want to go. They say they are hearing the situation is bad, they are are going to be stuck in there, there are calling it a jail.

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“Certainly the message from the authorities is that they have to move to the camp, and if they are not going to do so willingly … they will use the police to move people forcefully.”

The Greek migration ministry said on Tuesday that around 1,200 people had entered the new camp.

Aid groups said a few hundred more arrived on Wednesday, forced by exhaustion after sleeping rough under a hot sun for a week.

The UN refugee agency has urged Greece to speed up asylum processes on Lesbos.

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“The idea is not that people remain forever on the island of Lesbos, but that processes are accelerated so that people can leave gradually and in an orderly way” to the capital Athens or elsewhere on the mainland, the UN agency’s chief in Greece Philippe Leclerc told reporters.

Meanwhile, anger is growing among local Lesbos residents, who complain overcrowding on the island is affecting its tourism possibilities.

“We have two human dramas here. Unfortunately, it is the drama of the migrants living here that is constantly talked about, and never the locals who have gone through a very hard time, since 2015, and are very frustrated. These people should be put in a controlled camp and far away from the local population.

Greece’s police minister Michalis Chrysochoidis this week said that half the refugees and migrants on Lesbos should be able to leave by Christmas and “the rest by Easter”.


#Newsworthy…

East Mediterranean: Greece lauds return of turkish research vessel.

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Greek government calls the departure of the Oruc Reis from disputed waters after weeks of tension ‘a positive step’.

A Turkish seismic survey vessel, whose research in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean has been at the heart of a weeks-long standoff between Ankara and Athens, has returned to waters near southern Turkey – a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions over offshore natural resources.

But Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar played down the significance of the move, saying the ship had returned to shore as part of scheduled plans and insisted it did not mean Ankara was “giving up our rights there”.

“There will be planned movements backwards and forwards,” Akar told state news agency Anadolu in Antalya, southern Turkey, on Sunday.

Neighbours and NATO allies Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent Oruc Reis to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

Turkey’s navy had issued an advisory earlier this month saying the vessel would continue operations in the area until September 12. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had said it would continue exploratory operations for longer but no extension to the advisory was issued as of noon.

Refinitiv ship tracking data showed Oruc Reis, along with two accompanying naval vessels, returned to a location just off the coast of Antalya.

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The move was welcomed by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday.

“The return of Oruc Reis is a positive first step, I hope there will be continuity. We want to talk with Turkey but in a climate without provocations,” he told reporters in Thessaloniki.

Ankara faces potential sanctions from the European Union, which fully supports member states Greece and Cyprus, over the dispute. But many states, including Germany, want to defuse the stand-off through dialogue.

“A sanctions list exists as an option [against Turkey]. Our desire is not to see it implemented but it will be done if we see that the other side is not returning to the path of logic,” Mitsotakis said.

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The dispute over potential oil and gas reserves triggered a military build-up in the eastern Mediterranean, with Turkey and Greece both dispatching warships to the area and conducting military exercises to assert their claims.

The Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis [File:Turkish Ministry of Energy/Handout via Reuters]

Turkey has repeatedly said it is open to solving issues with Greece through dialogue but publicly rejected any conditions, including Oruc Reis halting operations, before negotiations.

“If there are those who set preconditions for Turkey, we have preconditions too and these preconditions need to be met,” Cavusoglu said during a news conference on Saturday, without elaborating.

Earlier in September, Mitsotakis said his country would only start talks with Turkey to resolve conflicting claims once Turkish “provocations” ceased.

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Turkey rejects EU criticism and says the bloc should remain impartial in the dispute, arguing the waters where exploratory natural gas drilling was being conducted were part of its Turkish continental shelf.

Turkey says it has a legitimate claim over the area in the eastern Mediterranean. There is no agreement between Greece and Turkey delimiting their continental shelves, while Turkey disputes any claims by Cyprus, with which it has no diplomatic relations.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Its internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government represents the whole island in the European Union, though its authority is effectively contained to the southern part. North Cyprus is an unrecognised Turkish Cypriot state recognised only by Ankara.

James Ker-Lindsay, a professor at the London School of Economics, said at the heart of the dispute is a 1924 maritime accord agreement between Turkey and Greece that is now outdated. He said Turkey is claiming one tiny Greek island is cutting off its access to vast gas resources.

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“It’s an incredibly complex problem. A hundred years ago the two sorted out their borders but times have changed. International law was in a very different place, you couldn’t explore deep waters. But with technology we’ve now been able to,” he told Media known to Noble Reporters Media.

Amid the tension, Mitsotakis on Saturday announced a “robust” arms purchase programme and an overhaul of the country’s military.

In a keynote address in Thessaloniki, he said Greece would acquire 18 French-made Rafale warplanes, four multipurpose frigates, and four navy helicopters, while also recruiting 15,000 new troops and pouring resources into the national arms industry and cyberattack defence. New anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes and air force missiles will also be secured, he added.

Mitsotakis is believed to have hammered out the programme after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a southern European leaders summit in Corsica this week. France has strongly backed Greece in its burgeoning showdown with Turkey, as well as Cyprus.

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Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday took aim at Macron following French criticism of Turkish maritime activities in the eastern Mediterranean, as tensions between the NATO allies continue to escalate.

“You will have many more problems with me,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul. “Don’t mess with the Turkish people. Don’t mess with Turkey.”

Separately on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a diplomatic solution to the dispute between Greece and Turkey, saying continuing military tensions between the NATO allies only serve the alliance’s enemies.

“Increased military tensions help no one but adversaries who would like to see division in transatlantic unity,” Pompeo said after talks in Nicosia with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.


#Newsworthy…

Moria inferno: Troubled Greece refugees gets aid.

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Chaos and confusion plague thousands of people made shelterless after a fire struck Europe’s largest refugee camp.

Days after a fire reduced Europe’s largest refugee camp to embers, fires are still breaking out around the charred remains of Moria.

Fire engines race back and forth over the Greek hillsides to extinguish the new fires, weaving between families languishing on the roadsides and in olive groves.

The air smells of burned plastic and smoke. The sounds of people shouting and children crying come from all sides.

Thousands are trapped between the smouldering camp they cannot return to and lines of police who block them from entering the nearby city of Mytilene.

Confusion prevails; people wonder why the fire started, how long they will have to remain by the side of the road, and what will happen next.

“We are here and we don’t know anything,” Ahmad Sadiya, a 29-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan, told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media. “We just have to wait here for some people to help us.”

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Sadiya was sleeping in a container with his wife and three small children when the fire broke out in the early hours of Wednesday.

Asylum seekers have been stranded on the street between the former Moria camp and Mytilene city, prevented from leaving by a line of police [Moira Lavelle/Al Jazeera] [Daylife]

They heard people shouting about a fire, but at first, when they tried to flee, they were stopped by police throwing tear gas. As the flames grew they were able to run for the streets.

he Greek government maintains that the fire was started by asylum seekers as a response to continuing coronavirus lockdowns and tests.

Moria refugee camp had been under an extended lockdown since March. Last week, it was put in an even stricter lockdown after 35 residents tested positive for COVID-19.

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In a statement on Wednesday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “I recognise the difficult conditions. However, nothing can become an alibi for violent reactions to health checks. And, much more, for riots of this magnitude.”

Pamela Kanda, 28, an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, cannot comprehend why she is stuck on the road between the camp and the city, and why she is not permitted to leave to get food or nappies for her two-year-old child.

“They don’t want anybody to pass,” she said. “They don’t tell us anything.”

Her phone has run out of battery, she has nowhere to charge it, and so she has no source of information from the outside world. She does not know what will happen next.

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Nearby in the same olive grove, 16-year-old Tamadur Al Bario’s family also lacks access to food and water. She picks up a baby cousin to show bug bites on the nape of her neck, and a thick white scar from a bomb in Syria. They are running out of formula.

“Where are the organisations to help? No food, nothing? Why?” she asks. “Nobody came to help. We will die, we will stay in the road, for them it’s no problem.”

Amid the heat and hunger, concerns about the coronavirus loom large.

Of the 35 Moria camp residents who were diagnosed with the illness, only eight have been located and quarantined.

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Here, people are unable to socially distance, and have no access to running water or sanitary products.

Refugees and migrants camp on a road following the fire at the Moria camp, a sprawling, overcrowded site designed for 3,000 people where 13,000 refugees had lived [Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

So far, few viable solutions have been proposed for the 13,000 residents of the former Moria.

Notis Mitarakis, the migration minister, said some 3,500 asylum seekers will be accommodated in a commercial passenger ship and two naval barges, and the rest will be provided with tents in different areas on the island.

By Friday afternoon, people were moved from the road beside the former camp to an area beside a field where new tents were being set up.

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Unsure where they might be sent next, others who were asked to move to the tent area refused to leave crowds on the roadside.

In the long-term, Mitarakis has remained firm that the government will proceed with the planned construction of a closed detention centre on the island – a move residents and aid organisations have protested against for months.

Ahmed Sadiya said at first, clashes between refugees and police prevented some from fleeing the fire [Moira Lavelle/Al Jazeera]

“We really starkly condemn any move to this kind of closed setting,” Christina Psarra, the general director of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) in Greece, told Media known to Noble Reporters Media.

“We reached this point because of this approach of closing the camp. They cannot build from the ashes, the same thing that caused so much pain.”

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Many refugees in Lesbos had never heard of the plan to build a closed camp.

Refugees and migrants sleep on a road, while one sits up, following a fire at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 10, 2020 [Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

“I don’t know what the government will decide,” said Mohammad Zaher, 42, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan.

“Will they make Moria again or no? Where will we be?”

Zaher has been without food and water for more than two days.

But for now, the worries about his future concern him more than hunger: “Food is not important for us, the future is important for us,” he said, gesturing to his son beside him. “The children’s future is important for us.”


#Newsworthy…

Moria inferno: Thousands of refugees in Greece left with no shelter, food.

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People who fled Greece’s largest camp sleep in supermarket parking lots and on roadsides, many without food and water.

Thousands of refugees slept rough on the Greek island of Lesbos for a second night after a fire razed the country’s largest camp to the ground, sending crowds fleeing but with nowhere to go.

Families slept on roadsides, in supermarket parking lots and in fields across the island, which was at the forefront of the European migrant crisis in 2015-2016.

There had been about 13,000 people in the camp.

Tuesday night’s inferno at Moria sent thousands rushing to save their lives, reducing the camp – notorious for its poor living conditions – to a mass of smouldering steel and melted tent tarpaulin.

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A second fire broke out on Wednesday night, destroying what little was left.

Desperate families, many with young children, spent Wednesday night in the open, some without tents or basic bedding. Some of the homeless trekked to the nearest villages for water and other supplies.

Refugees and migrants find shelter in the woods following the fire at the Moria camp [Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

Police reinforcements were brought in to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching the island’s main town of Mytilene, confining them to fields and roadsides.

Eight-year-old Congolese girl Valencia, who was barefoot, gestured to a Reuters reporter that she was hungry and asked for a biscuit. “Our home burned, my shoes burned, we don’t have food, no water.”

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Both she and her mother Natzy Malala, 30, who has a newborn, slept on the side of the road.

“There is no food, no milk for the baby,” Natzy Malala said.

Officials have declared a four-month emergency on Lesbos and flown in additional riot police.

The migration ministry said it would take “all necessary steps” to ensure that vulnerable groups and families had shelter, but these were expected to be met with stiff resistance from locals.

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Authorities were already at loggerheads with locals over plans to replace Moria with a closed reception centre, which Lesbos residents fear would mean thousands of asylum seekers remaining permanently.

Refugees sleep on the ground as they spend the night on a road near Mytilene after a fire destroyed Greece’s largest Moria refugee camp [Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP]

Municipalities were at odds over the handling of the situation, said Costas Moutzouris, governor of the Northern Aegean. “There is no decision. It’s up in the air,” he told Reuters.

The migration ministry said a ferry had been sent to accommodate hundreds of people ahead of the expected arrival of European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas to inspect conditions on the island.

Reporting from Lesbos, NRM said the situation was dire for the government.

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“It is hard to see how the government is going to settle so many thousands of [refugees] who have been left shelterless and homeless.

“We are told that three ships are under way to house thousands of the most vulnerable people with small children, but that will probably still leave some thousands uncared. There is a huge problem because the municipality doesn’t have the infrastructure to provide for them.”

A government official who declined to be named said that sheltering refugees and migrants on boats was not a safe solution and was sending the wrong message to migrants who would want to leave Lesbos.

People sleep on the road near the Moria refugee camp on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece [Petros Giannakouris/The Associated Press]

The fire brought fresh tragedy to the refugees who had been living in Moria. The camp was under quarantine restrictions due to an outbreak of COVID-19 last week.

Authorities are investigating whether Tuesday night’s fires were started deliberately after COVID-19 tests led to the isolation of 35 refugees


#Newsworthy…

Moria Inferno: Many flee refugee camp in Greece.

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At least 28 firefighters and eight engines have been sent to tackle the fires, but immediate cause remains unclear.

Fires were burning both inside and outside the overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos in the early hours of Wednesday, forcing hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers to flee, according to the fire service.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear, but Reuters witnesses said people were seen leaving the camp, carrying their luggage in their hands, and police said they were being taken to safety.

Nearly the entire camp, the largest in Greece, was on fire, including in an olive grove outside the walls of the main compound where many people sleep in tents, according to a Media photographer.

At least 28 firemen with 9 engines, aided by volunteers, were battling the flames.

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Stand by Me Lesvos, a refugee support group, said on Twitter it had received reports that some of the island’s Greek residents prevented fleeing asylum seekers from heading into a nearby village.

“The whole camp is on fire. Everything is burning. People are escaping. Their homes in Moria are gone,” the organisation said.

The camp is home to some 13,000 people – more than four times its stated capacity. Aid groups have criticised its cramped and unsanitary living conditions, which also make social distancing and basic hygiene measures impossible to implement.

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Greek news agency ANA said the fires started after a revolt by people who were to be placed in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus or coming into close contact with an infected patient.

Firefighters said earlier there were “scattered fires” around and inside the camp.

The camp has seen a spike in coronavirus infections since reporting its first case last Wednesday, when it was placed in lockdown, with 35 confirmed cases so far.

Lesbos, which lies just off the Turkish coast, was on the front line of a large movement of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe five years ago. Wildfires fanned by strong winds were also burning in two other areas of the island


#Newsworthy…

East Mediterranean: Turkish leader, Erdogan threatens Greece.

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Turkish president warns Greece to enter talks over disputed Mediterranean Sea claims or face ‘painful experiences’.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Greece to enter talks over disputed eastern Mediterranean territorial claims or face the consequences.

“They’re either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences,” he said on Saturday at a hospital’s opening ceremony in Istanbul.

The two NATO allies have been locked for weeks in a tense standoff in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey is prospecting the seabed for energy reserves in an area Greece claims as its own continental shelf.

Cyprus has also accused Turkey of breaching its sovereignty by drilling in their waters. All sides have deployed naval and air forces to assert their competing claims in the region.

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“They are going to understand that Turkey has the political, economic and military power to tear up the immoral maps and documents imposed,” Erdogan added, referring to areas marked by Greece and Cyprus as their economic maritime zones.

He said Turkey was “ready for every eventuality and result”.

NATO said this week Greek and Turkish leaders had agreed to take part in technical talks to avoid accidents between their navies.

But Greece later said it had not agreed to the talks, leading to accusations from Turkey that the European Union country was shunning dialogue.

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Tanks to the border?
On Saturday, a Turkish news report said Ankara redeployed armoured personnel carriers from the Syrian border to the one it shares with Greece.

The Cumhuriyet newspaper said 40 tanks were being transported from the Syrian border to Edirne in northwest Turkey and carried photographs of armoured vehicles loaded on trucks.

A military official speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations said the deployment was a regular movement of forces and unconnected to tension with Greece.

Reporting from Istanbul, Noble Reporters Media said officials have only said, “This is within the planned activity, the responsibility of the second army, [which is] responsible for the areas of Syria, Iraq and Iran.”

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If the convoy is indeed heading to the border with Greece, then it is a part of the “diplomatic military arm wrestling in what is a tense situation between the two countries”, Dekker said.

“We just heard from Turkey’s president that … they won’t hesitate even going to a full-on military confrontation when it comes to defending what they say are their legitimate rights.”

Reporting from Athens, Noble Reporters Media said he does not believe the Greeks are concerned about the narrow land border they share with Turkey, as they have 1,300 tanks in their arsenal, most of which are “parked right there in the 130-kilometre-long stretch”.

“There is overwhelming armour opposite the Turkish border and that’s the only part of the Greek-Turkish theatre that the Greeks feel confident about,” Psaropoulos said.

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“What they’re less confident about is the vast swath of the Aegean sea and now eastern Mediterranean sea.”

He added after eight years of recession and austerity measures imposed by its eurozone partners, Greece has cut its defence budget by about half, now amounting to roughly 3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

“The Greeks have traditionally spent very highly on defence. They are now unable to keep up with Turkey, which has almost triple the defence budget of Greece,” Psaropoulos said.

Practicing dogfights
Turkey on August 10 deployed the Oruc Reis research vessel and an escorting flotilla of warships to the waters between Cyprus and the Greek islands of Kastellorizo and Crete. The vessel’s stay in the contested waters has been extended three times.

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Greece responded by staging naval exercises with several EU allies and the United Arab Emirates, not far from smaller manoeuvres Turkey conducted between Cyprus and Crete last week.

Ankara said it has every right to prospect the region and accuses Athens of trying to grab an unfair share of maritime resources.

Simulated dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighter pilots have multiplied over the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean.

A Turkish and a Greek frigate collided last month, reportedly causing minor damage to the Turkish frigate but no injuries.

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Erdogan said Turkey has repeatedly expressed its willingness to come to a just agreement.

“Our word is sincere,” he said. “The problem is those before us disregard our rights and try to situate themselves above us.”

The crisis is the most serious in the two countries’ relations in decades. The neighbours have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, including once over maritime resources in the Aegean.

Earlier, Ankara announced joint military exercises with northern Cypriot forces from Sunday to September 10. The air, land, and sea drills are held every year.


#Newsworthy…

Leaders of Greece, Turkey trades insult over East Mediterranean talks.

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Greek PM says cites Ankara’s ‘provocations’ as Turkish FM accuses Athens of lying over intentions to enter dialogue.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey over maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean have been reignited as political leaders of both countries traded insults amid efforts by NATO to foster dialogue.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday his country would only start talks with Turkey to resolve conflicting claims once Turkish “provocations” ceased.

The war of words escalated last month after Turkey dispatched a seismic survey vessel to a disputed area for energy exploration following a maritime deal between Greece and Egypt. Turkey says the pact infringes on its own continental shelf.

“[Our country] can and wants to discuss the demarcation of maritime zones in the Aegean Sea, in the Eastern Mediterranean, based on international law. But not under threats,” Mitsotakis said during a meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, who is visiting Athens.

Mitsotakis made the remarks during a meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi [Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool via Reuters]

“Once the provocations end, discussions will begin,” he said, adding that Greece’s foreign minister would deliver a letter from him outlining Athens’ case to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when the two meet in New York on Friday.

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Also on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Greece and Turkey, both members of the Western alliance, had begun technical talks, but they had yet to agree on a deal to avoid accidental clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Turkey on Friday accused Greece of shunning the dialogue and lying by denying it had signed up to NATO-brokered talks.

A Greek frigate collided with a Turkish one in August and the two NATO members staged rival war games in the energy-rich but disputed region last week.

Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in the Mediterranean Sea [Handout/Reuters]

Stoltenberg has said Greek and Turkish leaders “agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military deconfliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents”.

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But Greece said later on Thursday that Athens never agreed to the technical talks, claiming Stoltenberg’s statement did not “correspond to reality”.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Greece did, in fact, agree to the proposal when it was made.

“Greece denied the secretary general’s (remarks) but the one lying here is not the NATO secretary general, it’s Greece itself,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.

“Greece showed once more than it’s not in favour of dialogue.”


#Newsworthy…

Turkey, Greece to meet over Mediterranean tension.

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Tensions running high over Turkey’s drilling activities, which Greece and Cyprus say violate their sovereignty.


Greece and Turkey are set to hold talks at NATO aimed at preventing clashes in the eastern Mediterranean, where they are at odds over maritime borders and gas exploration rights.

Tensions are running high over Turkey’s drilling activities, which Greece and Cyprus say violate their sovereignty, and both sides have deployed warships in a show of force, raising fears of conflict erupting by accident.

The two NATO allies have now agreed to get together to discuss ways to avoid an armed confrontation, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

“Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders, the two allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the eastern Mediterranean,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“Greece and Turkey are valued allies, and NATO is an important platform for consultations on all issues that affect our shared security.”

With the talks set to be of a technical military nature, they are unlikely to bring a complete solution to the complex, long-running rivalry between Greece and Turkey.

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But observers hope they will at least offer an opening for further dialogue.

The decision to hold talks comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the two sides to reduce tensions and open diplomatic channels to ease the crisis.

Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in the Mediterranean sea [File: Greek Ministry of Defence Handout/Reuters]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck a defiant tone this week, extending the gas exploration mission and saying Ankara would not be intimidated by Greece’s support from European military powers such as France.

Large reserves of natural gas are believed to be located in the eastern Mediterranean, which Turkey is exploring in maritime areas claimed by Cyprus or Greece.

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Ankara sent out drillships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying it and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have hydrocarbon exploration rights in the region.

Greece has disputed Turkey’s current energy activities in the eastern Mediterranean, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small Greek islands near the Turkish coast.

The European Union has been watching the escalating dispute with growing concern, with Germany spearheading efforts to get the sides to temper the rhetoric and settle their differences through talks.

The EU has repeatedly urged Turkey to stop its exploration activities and threatened to slap sanctions on Ankara if it refused to solve the dispute through dialogue.


#Newsworthy…


Turkey, Greece Tensions Call For Dialogue | Video

Watch video here – Germany – Noble Reporters tv

Harry Maguire released from Greece Police Custody

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Manchester United captain Harry Maguire was released from Greek police custody Saturday, TV footage showed, ahead of a hearing on assault charges on the island of Mykonos.

Wearing a baseball cap and mask, Maguire was shown leaving a courthouse on neighbouring Syros island, accompanied by what appeared to be members of his legal team, and boarding a dark minivan.

The England centre-back’s hearing has been set for Tuesday but he is not obliged to be present.

Manchester United said in a statement: “Following the appearance in court today we note the adjournment of the case to allow the legal team to consider the case file.

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“Harry has pleaded not guilty to the charges. It would be inappropriate for the player or club to comment further while the legal process takes its course,” the club said.

His lawyer Constantinos Darivas had earlier told Greek sports website gazzetta.gr that the England centre-back had denied the charges, and was in “fine condition” despite spending two nights in detention since his Thursday night arrest.

Greek TV channel Mega said Maguire’s father had flown to Greece to be at his son’s side.

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The case is being heard on the island of Syros, the administrative hub of the Cycladic island group that includes Mykonos.

Manchester United football team captain Harry Maguire (2nd L) leaves a courthouse on the Greek island of Syros, the administrative hub of the Cycladic island group that includes Mykonos on August 22, 2020. EUROKINISSI / AFP

The £80 million (88 million euros) defender was arrested late Thursday after what Greek police described as an “altercation” between two groups of British tourists on Mykonos.

Mega said Maguire had become enraged after someone in the other group struck his sister.

A Greek police statement on Friday said that three men aged 27, 28 and 29 had been arrested in Mykonos.

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The police said an officer was punched on the scene, and that a second fight had broken out at the local police station where the three men “strenuously resisted (arrest), pushing and striking three officers.”

One of the suspects then tried to bribe the officers to hush up the incident, the police said.

The suspects are accused of assault, resisting arrest, verbally insulting and threatening the arresting officers, and attempted bribery, the police said.

Four Mykonos officers sustained slight injuries in the fracas, the authorities said.

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Mykonos is popular with sports stars and celebrities for its all-night nightlife and beaches.

United’s 2019/20 season ended Sunday in a 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League semi-finals.

But the club will be back in pre-season training in two weeks and could begin the new Premier League campaign in less than a month.

On Monday, Maguire had tweeted after the elimination: “Time to go away, reflect, recover and be ready to come back stronger next season.”


#Newsworthy…

United’s Maguire in Greece Court Over Police Assault.

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Manchester United captain Harry Maguire will appear before a Greek prosecutor Saturday to face charges of allegedly assaulting police on the island of Mykonos, with his lawyer promising a swift resolution.

“Everything is going well. Maguire denies the charges. If all goes well, we’ll be done (today),” Constantinos Darivas told Greek sports website gazzetta.gr.

Darivas added that the England centre-back was in “fine condition” despite spending two nights in detention since his Thursday night arrest.

Maguire will be taken before a prosecutor before midday.

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The case is being heard on the island of Syros, the administrative hub of the Cycladic island group that includes Mykonos.

The £80-million (88-million-euro) defender was arrested early Friday after what Greek police described as an “altercation” between two groups of British tourists on Mykonos.

A Greek police statement on Friday said that three men aged 27, 28 and 29 had been arrested in Mykonos.

Greek state agency ANA identified the suspects as Maguire, his brother and a friend.

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The police said an officer was punched on the scene, and that a second fight had broken out at the local police station where the three men “strenuously resisted (arrest), pushing and striking three officers.”

One of the suspects then tried to bribe the officers to hush up the incident, the police said.

The suspects are accused of assault, resisting arrest, verbally insulting and threatening the arresting officers, and attempted bribery, the police said.

Four Mykonos officers sustained slight injuries in the fracas, the authorities said.

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Mykonos is popular with sports stars and celebrities for its all-night nightlife and beaches.

United on Friday said in a brief statement they were “aware of an alleged incident involving Harry Maguire in Mykonos last night.”

“Contact has been made with Harry, and he is fully cooperating with the Greek authorities.

“At this time we will be making no further comment,” the club added.


#Newsworthy…

Police arrest Man Utd Captain, Maguire in Greece.

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Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has been arrested on the Greek tourist island of Mykonos for an alleged assault and attacking officers, police said Friday.

United said in a brief statement they were “aware of an alleged incident involving Harry Maguire in Mykonos last night.”

“Contact has been made with Harry, and he is fully cooperating with the Greek authorities.

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“At this time we will be making no further comment,” the club added.

A police officer in Syros, the capital of the island group that includes Mykonos, confirmed that the suspects are “three British men, including a British football club player” but did not name Maguire.

The Syros officer said four Mykonos officers had sustained slight injuries in the fracas. The suspects are also accused of resisting arrest and verbally insulting and threatening the arresting officers, he said.

He said Mykonos police had been called to break up a fight between two groups late on Thursday.

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Greek state agency ANA said a fight had broken out between British tourists outside a bar.

The agency identified the suspects as Maguire, his brother and a friend.

ANA said the police had asked the suspects to follow them to the police station with the van but when they arrived, they attempted to flee.

They will appear before a Syros prosecutor later Friday, the Syros officer said.


#NobleSport

COVID-19: Greece expects vaccine supplies from December.

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Greece’s health minister on Tuesday said he expects the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in December under an EU deal for some three million doses overall.

“If all goes well, Greece will receive its agreed share in seven deliveries…we will start with 700,000 doses in December,” Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias told Media TV (known to Noble Reporters Media)

The deliveries will be made monthly between December and June, he said.

The European Commission on August 14 said it had reached a first agreement with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca “to purchase a potential vaccine against COVID-19 as well as to donate to lower and middle income countries or re-direct to other European countries.”

It said “once the vaccine has proven to be safe and effective” it would purchase 300 million doses with an “option to purchase 100 million more on behalf of EU Member States.”

Greece has a relatively low infection and mortality rate compared to other EU states, but the spread of the virus has shot up alarmingly this month.

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There are over 7,200 cases, including some 2,800 in August, and 230 people have died of the virus in Greece.

Authorities have blamed the spike in infections to the flouting of social distancing rules in restaurants, bars and public gatherings.

The civil protection agency has imposed night curfews for eateries and clubs in over a dozen parts of the country, including some of Greece’s leading tourist destinations.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has warned that “more drastic measures that will doubtlessly have economic repercussions” would be taken if the spread of the virus is not halted.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Greece reports highest single day cases.

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Greece on Wednesday registered 262 new COVID-19 infections, the highest figure since the pandemic began and part of a steadily rising trend this month.

The public health organisation also said two more people had died, bringing the total virus death toll to 216.

The number of patients under intensive care has nearly doubled, with 24 reported Wednesday from 13 last week.

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Authorities have blamed the spike in infections to the flouting of social distancing rules in restaurants, bars and public gatherings.

Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said earlier that the average age of those infected in August had dropped to 36 years old.

“It can happen even if you’re young and think you’re invulnerable,” Kikilias tweeted.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – AUGUST 03: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Medics with Austin-Travis County EMS transport a nursing home resident with coronavirus symptoms on August 03, 2020 in Austin, Texas. Texas has had the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, following Florida and California. John Moore/Getty Images/AFP

The Greek government on Monday announced a night curfew for restaurants and bars in some of its top tourist destinations.

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New entry restrictions for Balkan arrivals and flight passengers from several EU countries were also unveiled.

Eateries and bars are closed from midnight to 0700 in a dozen parts of the country, including the popular islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Rhodes and Crete.

The cities of Thessaloniki, Larissa, Volos and Katerini are also affected, as is the Halkidiki peninsula which is popular with Balkan visitors.

In addition, all passengers on flights from Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden arriving from August 17 must provide a negative COVID-19 result obtained up to 72 hours before entry, as must all land border arrivals.

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The civil protection agency last week made masks compulsory in all indoor public areas.

Among other measures announced Monday was a decision to scrap Greece’s top trade exhibition, the annual Thessaloniki international fair in September.

The government has ruled out a general lockdown after gradually reopening the economy in May and starting to accept foreign arrivals in June to salvage part of the tourism season which is vital to the economy.

Only 10 percent of cases in Greece can be traced to foreign arrivals.


#Newsworthy…

East Mediterranean: Greece calls emergency EU meeting

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Greece wants the EU to hold an emergency foreign ministers’ meeting, the prime minister’s office said Tuesday amid a burgeoning row with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.

“The foreign minister (will) request an emergency meeting of the European Union foreign affairs council,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ office said.

The row flared Monday when Ankara sent the research ship Oruc Reis off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, where Turkey disputes Greek maritime rights.

Marine tracking on Tuesday located the vessel southeast of the island of Crete. It is escorted by a Turkish navy flotilla and shadowed by Greek warships.

Turkey has announced the Oruc Reis would carry out activities between August 10 and 23.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 8, 2020. JIM WATSON / AFP

Energy exploration in the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean is a frequent source of tension between Turkey and a bloc of its neighbours including Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday conferred with his military chiefs and spoke with EU Council President Charles Michel and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Sunday called Turkey’s actions “extremely worrying” and a recipe for “greater antagonism and distrust”.

Stoltenberg urged respect for international law during talks on Monday with the Greek premier.

“The situation must be resolved in a spirit of Allied solidarity and in accordance with international law,” Stoltenberg tweeted.


#Newsworthy…