November 17, 2015 / 1:13 PM / 5 years ago

Turkey and Greece must work together on refugees - Greek PM

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Greece and Turkey must fight human trafficking together and coordinate the work of their police and coast guards to help tackle the refugee crisis, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wrote in a Turkish newspaper on Tuesday.

Refugees and migrants line-up during free food distribution at a temporary camp on the Greek island of Leros November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Fotis Plegas

Tsipras is due to visit Turkey later on Tuesday, where he and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will attend a friendly football match between the two countries in Istanbul. They are scheduled to hold bilateral talks on Wednesday.

While the NATO allies have had difficult relations due to disputes over territorial borders in the Aegean Sea and the partition of Cyprus, Tsipras and Davutoglu have recently held regular telephone discussions about issues including migration and Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

They last spoke after Turkey’s Nov. 1 election when Tsipras called Davutoglu to congratulate him on his AK Party’s victory, officials in Davutoglu’s office said.

Tsipras’ visit will be an opportunity to “reinvigorate” the relationship between the two countries, especially in the face of the widening refugee crisis that has seen 650,000 people cross the border from Turkey into EU member Greece in recent months, Tsipras wrote in the Daily Sabah newspaper.

“We need to talk more about how to fight trafficking networks ... and how to coordinate and cooperate on the level of migration, police and coast guard authorities,” he wrote.

Tsipras also urged a “just and viable” solution to the Cyprus issue based on United Nations’ decisions.

Cyprus has been split along ethnic lines since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup.

The EU considers the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia to represent the whole island, while Ankara recognises a breakaway Turkish Cypriot administration in the north of the island.

Tsipras also highlighted security in the Aegean, where territorial disputes almost provoked a war between Greece and Turkey in 1996 over tiny uninhabited islets.

“Security in our region cannot be ensured without security in the Aegean. This cannot be done under threat of war or through increased Greek airspace violations,” Tsipras said.

“Only by ensuring good neighbourly relations on the basis of international law can we build solid foundations for our future cooperation.”

Tsipras arrives in Turkey a day after the leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) leading world economies attended a summit on global economic growth in the Turkish resort of Antalya, where security was ratcheted up in the wake of the attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people.

Commenting on security arrangements at Tuesday’s match in Istanbul that Tsipras and Davutoglu will attend, the Turkish Football Federation said no banners would be allowed into the stadium and only members of the media would be able to bring “professional” cameras.

Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Daren Butler; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Gareth Jones

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