Greece’s new conservative prime minister met Wednesday (25 September) with Turkey’s leader for the first time and asked for cooperation in stemming an uptick in migrant arrivals.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the leaders of the historic adversaries took part in the UN General Assembly.
“I had a frank discussion with President Erdoğan on all major issues from immigration to Cyprus to bilateral matters,” Mitsotakis tweeted after the meeting.
“We agreed to work together to build a better climate for the benefit of our people and stability of the region,” he said.
A Greek official said the two leaders “agreed to make every effort to decrease the flow of migrants.”
Mitsotakis pledged to take a tougher line on migration as he defeated Alexis Tsipiras’ left-wing government in July.
Tsipras on a humanitarian principle had welcomed migrants, many of whom were fleeing war-ravaged Syria and seeking to transit through Greece to northern European nations.
Turkey curbed a historic wave of migrants under a 2016 agreement with the European Union in return for $6 billion in aid.
But Erdoğan has recently pressed for more funds to take care of the more than four million refugees in Turkey, fearing a new influx due to fighting in Syria’s Idlib region.
Migrant arrivals to Greece rose this year, prompting Mitsotakis’ government to say it would accelerate the examination of asylum requests — which would likely result in more people being refused and sent back to Turkey.