Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused European countries of harbouring “murderers” in “nests of terror”, including at the Greek refugee camp in Lavrion, during a speech to provincial heads of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Tuesday.
Erdoğan’s accusations continue months of simmering tensions with Turkey’s neighbours and NATO allies in Greece, as well as other Western partners and prospective Atlantic allies such as Sweden and Finland.
“The murderers who shed the blood of our citizens are embraced in almost every country in Europe, particularly in the Lavrion camp in Greece,” Erdoğan said. “They can walk around freely waving their arms.”
The president was referring to the camp in Lavrion, southeast of Athens, which hosts Kurdish refugees. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency and other pro-government press outlets from Turkey have run stories in recent weeks claiming Lavrion is being used as a training camp by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The stories show tents containing PKK symbols and images of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as evidence for this claim, and say the camp has been associated with the group for decades. However, a police search of the camp in 2013 reportedly uncovered no evidence of terrorism, and camp residents told Middle East Eye they were not connected to the PKK.
Erdoğan’s comments, and the renewed focus on the camp, come amid a period of strong hostilities from Turkey toward both Kurdish political groups and perceived foreign enemies. This year Erdoğan has pushed for foreign acquiescence to a new cross-border offensive against Kurdish-led administrations in northern Syria, and the Turkish Armed Forces have launched frequent artillery and drone strikes against Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq.
“As the nests of terror are destroyed, members of terrorist organisations openly set up camps for themselves in some countries,” the Turkish president said.
Besides Greece, Erdoğan has also accused Sweden and Finland of harbouring members of outlawed groups including the PKK, and has threatened to block the countries’ applications to join NATO unless they accept Turkey’s extradition demands.