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Mitsotakis and Sakellaropoulou chide Turkey over migrants

Mitsotakis and Sakellaropoulou chide Turkey over migrants

Both Greece’s president and prime minister pointed Friday to Turkey’s role in letting ships packed with migrants sail from its coast, often in perilous conditions.

Both were commenting on the shipwrecks off the coasts of two Greek islands late Wednesday and early Thursday that resulted in 23 confirmed deaths, with at least 10 more missing.

“The Mediterranean should be a sea of peace and prosperity and not a field to [weaponize] the human pain from Turkey,” President Katerina Sakellaropoulou told her Maltese counterpart, George Vella, on Friday in the Maltese capital, Valletta.

Speaking after the conclusion of the informal meeting of EU heads of state, Sakellaropoulou said the two deadly shipwrecks underlined the need for common European action in order to tackle the human trafficking rings and prevent, as much as possible, similar tragic incidents in the future.

“The root of this problem is the boats leaving the Turkish coastline,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said from the Czech capital Prague Friday, where he was attending an informal meeting of EU heads of government. “And there is no doubt that Turkey, if it wants to, can do more to tackle this problem.”

“Once again, I call on Turkey to cooperate with Greece to stop these ruthless networks of traffickers of people in distress so no more lives are needlessly lost in the Aegean Sea,” he told reporters at the start of the meeting.

Strong winds were hampering efforts around the islands of Kythera and Lesvos Friday to find at least 10 migrants believed to be missing, officials said Friday.

A dinghy and a sailboat sank off the islands of Lesvos, near the coast of Turkey, and Kythera, south of the Greek mainland – prompting a dramatic nighttime rescue, with survivors hauled to safety up cliffs.

Coast guard, navy and volunteer rescuers focused efforts around a rugged cove on Kythera where the sailboat smashed into rocks and broke up, leaving bodies floating in the wreckage on Thursday.