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Greek and Turkish foreign ministers clash at press conference

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Greece's foreign minister Nikos Dendias, left, and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Greece's foreign minister Nikos Dendias, left, and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici
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The foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey have clashed at a meeting intended to improve relations between the two countries.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias travelled to Ankara on Thursday to discuss ties with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Both ministers initially spoke about keeping the channels of dialogue open and increasing economic cooperation.

But then, during a press conference, the two diplomats traded accusations on maritime borders, migrants, and the treatment of minorities.

Dendias criticised Turkish activities in the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean and what he described as Ankara's poor implementation of a migrant agreement with the EU.

"Greece's position is clear and it is not the first time you hear it," the Greek minister said.

"Turkey has violated in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean the international law and the [international] convention of the sea and the very sovereign rights of Greece, Turkey has carried out 400 flights over Greek soil."

The Turkish foreign minister retorted that his country's activities in the eastern Mediterranean "protect the interests of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots".

"If you make such heavy accusations against my country and my people, I am obliged to respond," Cavusoglu said, visibly upset by the remarks.

Cavusoglu also stated that Turkey had behaved in a "decent way" on the issue of migration and accused Athens of having "turned back 80,000 people in the last four years".

"We have our differences on these issues," Cavusoglu said, describing Dendias' comments as "unacceptable".

Angered by what it perceived to be a lack of support for its policies in Syria, Turkey announced last year that it was opening its western borders, prompting thousands of migrants to gather at frontier points to Greece.

Greece denies carrying out pushbacks and accuses Turkey of failing to crack down on migrant smugglers operating from its shores.

Tensions have also been heightened over maritime boundaries and energy exploration rights, which led to a military buildup of warships in the region.

The dispute was eased after Turkey pulled back its energy research vessel and adopted a more conciliatory tone towards Greece and other EU member states.

Dendias' visit was meant to pave the way for a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.