COVID-19 Protests Halt Public Transport In Athens

Demonstrators walks in the street of Athens during a general strike to protest draft labour law on November 26, 2020. (Photo by Aris MESSINIS / AFP)

 

Athens city buses, metro lines and trams ground to a halt Thursday with public workers pressing for better protection against coronavirus as Greece extended Covid-19 restrictions until December 7.

Shipping also closed for a day in the coastal nation, disrupting maritime trade as well as transport linking its numerous islands.

A second wave is raging through Greece, with daily infections now between 2,500 and 3,000 compared with 667 on October 20. The death toll has just crossed 1,900 and more than 500 people are in intensive care.

Scores of motorcyclists briefly demonstrated outside the labour ministry in Athens shouting slogans such as “Riot police everywhere, intensive care units nowhere”.

Medical workers also called for a rally outside the health ministry to demand Christmas bonuses and better health protection, including increased testing for those on the frontline.

Some 200 far-left activists defied pandemic curbs to rally in central Athens before being dispersed by police, deployed in full force in the capital to prevent lockdown breaches.

Greece also extended virus curbs initially set to end this month to December 7.

People must get official permission by SMS to leave their homes and all businesses are closed apart from shops selling essential items as well as pharmacies and supermarkets.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Thursday that the restrictions had to be prolonged in view of the continued high rate of infections.

“There are the first signs of a reduction,” he said, adding: “If this continues, the pressure on the health system will decline and we can envisage a return to a certain normalcy.”

AFP

Greece Bans Gatherings Ahead Of Uprising Anniversary

A man wearing a face mask walks past shuttered hops in Thessaloniki on November 14, 2020, during a second national lockdown in Greece aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus.  (Photo by Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP)

 

Greek police on Sunday announced a ban on public gatherings of four or more people as hospitals were overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, ahead of the annual anniversary of a 1973 anti-junta uprising.

Greece on Saturday said it would shut primary schools, kindergartens and daycare centres as coronavirus deaths crossed a thousand.

The anti-junta demonstration is a treasured anniversary for many Greeks, and more than 30,000 people demonstrated in Athens and other major cities last year under a heavy police presence.

At least 24 people were killed in the 1973 crackdown, an event generally considered to have broken the junta’s grip on power and helped the restoration of democracy.

This year, however, all public gatherings of four or more people would be banned from 6 am on Sunday to 9 pm on Wednesday to stem the spread of coronavirus, police said in a statement.

Fines of 5,000 euros will be issued to legal entities like political parties and 3,000 euros for individuals who organise gatherings, while those participating will be fined 300 euros.

Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said on Friday that the events and marches commemorating the November 17 Athens Polytechnic student uprising will not take place this year.

“We did not celebrate March 25th or October 28th, we did not celebrate Easter, we did not celebrate any of the things that unite us in 2020. The same will be the case with the Polytechnic anniversary,” the minister said, referring to three national holidays that were not celebrated because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The virus is the enemy and large gatherings are its main weapon,” he added, prompting opposition parties to pledge they would proceed with demonstrations.

Communist KKE party leader Dimitris Koutsoumpas in an interview on Saturday stressed that “the Polytechnic march was never organised by the government”.

“All the measures will be strictly observed with the use of face masks and antiseptics, keeping the necessary distances and of course we urge people belonging to vulnerable groups or those who are ill to stay at home,” Koutsoumpas said.

Greece’s former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, leader of the Diem25 party on Saturday accused the government of announcing in advance the arrest of his party’s members.

On Friday, Greek police evacuated the premises of the historic Polytechnic building that now houses the National Technical University of Athens and another university campus and arrested 92 people for trespassing, disturbance and disorder.

Authorities on Saturday reported 2,835 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 72,510, and 38 new deaths, raising the toll to 1,035.

AFP

Greece Shuts Down All Schools As COVID-19 Surge Overwhelm Hospitals

Police officers patrol by closed archaeological site of the Hadrian’s Library in central Athens on November 7, 2020, on the first day of a three-week lockdown. Greek government imposed a nationwide lockdown as of November 7, to curb the spread of the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus).
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP

 

Greece announced on Saturday the closure of its primary schools, kindergartens and daycare centres amid a surge in coronavirus cases that has saturated the national health system.

“The Greek government decided the suspension of the functioning of schools until November 30,” said a statement from Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias.

“Closing elementary schools was the last thing we wanted to do. This is a measure of how serious the situation is,” he added.

Secondary schools have already closed and all lessons have taken place remotely since Monday.

Most European countries have kept schools open during the second wave of cases that have hit the continent since September, unlike in March and April when they were shuttered during the first lockdowns.

The World Health Organisation recommends that schools only be shut as a last resort.

Since late October, the daily number of deaths in Greece has quadrupled with 50 deaths reported some days, while the number of infections has doubled to around 3,000 cases daily.

Out of the 1,143 total, intensive care unit beds nationwide on Friday 830 were occupied.

“The coming weeks will be extremely critical”, Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday in the Greek Parliament where he was briefing MPs for the second lockdown since March.

This lockdown started November 7 and is to last until November 30, although experts suggest it might last longer.

Since Friday night a curfew from 9 pm to 5am has been imposed all over Greece.

The country with a population of 10.9 million people has experienced 997 deaths and 69,675 contaminations since the beginning of the pandemic in late February,  most of them in the last four months.

The most hard-hit area is the northern city of Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece.

“The health system is in the red,” Health Minister Kikilias has warned.

-AFP

26 Dead, Buildings Collapse As Major Earthquake Hits Turkey, Greece

Search and rescue teams search the rumble of a collapsed building for survivors on October 31, 2020, in Izmir, after a powerful earthquake struck Turkey’s western coast and parts of Greece.  AFP

 

Rescuers dug through heavy blocks of concrete with their bare hands Saturday in a desperate search for survivors from a powerful earthquake that levelled buildings across Greece and Turkey, killing at least 26 people.

The quake struck late Friday afternoon, causing a mini-tsunami on the Aegean island of Samos and a sea surge that turned streets into rushing rivers in a town on Turkey’s west coast.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.0 magnitude tremor hit 14 kilometres (nine miles) off the Greek town of Karlovasi on Samos.

Felt in both Istanbul and Athens, it also created a diplomatic opening for the two historic rivals, with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis placing a rare call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer his condolences and support.

Hospital patients on the street

Much of the damage occurred in and around Turkey’s Aegean resort city of Izmir, which has three million residents and is filled with high-rise apartment blocks.

Parts of entire apartments, including toys, pillows and shattered appliances, spilt out on the streets, where survivors huddled in tears, many too shocked to speak.

Aerial footage showed entire city blocks turned to rubble.

“I thought: Is it going to end? It felt like 10 minutes like it was never going to end,” said Gokhan Kan, a 32-year-old courier.

“I was terrified not for myself in that moment but for my family, my wife and four-year-old son.”

Izmir’s mayor Tunc Soyer told CNN Turk that 20 buildings had collapsed, with officials focusing their rescue efforts on 17 of them.

Turkey’s disaster relief agency reported 24 deaths and 800 injuries, while in Greece two teenagers died on their way home from school on Samos when a wall collapsed.

The scenes of devastation suggested the toll could rise.

One Izmir hospital rolled some of its patients — still strapped into their beds and hooked up to drips — out on the street as a precaution.

Turkey’s religious affairs directorate opened its mosques to help shelter some of those left homeless by the disaster.

‘Remain calm’ 

Images on social media showed water rushing through the streets of one of the towns near Izmir from an apparent sea surge.

Thick white plumes of smoke towered over various parts of the city where big buildings had collapsed.

Rescuers, helped by residents and sniffer dogs, used chainsaws to try to force their way through the rubble of one destroyed seven-floor building.

At another site, Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli managed to establish mobile phone contact with a girl buried under the debris.

“We ask you to remain calm,” he told her in televised footage. “We will try to lift the concrete block and reach you.”

NTV television said up to six people were trapped at the site, including the girl’s cousin.

The region’s governor said 70 people had been pulled out alive by Friday evening, although how many more were missing remained unknown by sunset.

Rescuers set up tents in a small park away from the cracked and damaged buildings for families to spend the night in safety and relative warmth.

“Because we live in Izmir, we have pretty warm weather, we can make it through today, we can make it through tomorrow,” said Cemalettin Enginyurt, a retired soldier. “But we can’t think of anything on the long term, we are helpless.”

– ‘Earthquake Diplomacy’ –

On the Greek island of Samos, near the quake’s epicentre, people rushed out into the streets in panic.

“It was chaos,” said deputy mayor Giorgos Dionysiou. “We have never experienced anything like this.”

The Greek civil protection agency told Samos residents in a text message to “stay out in the open and away from buildings”.

Greece and Turkey are situated in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

The two neighbours also suffer from historically poor relations despite both being members of the NATO military alliance.

But the quake saw a spurt of what pundits immediately termed “earthquake diplomacy”, with calls exchanged by their foreign ministers and then, hours later, the Greek prime minister and Erdogan.

“Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together,” Mitsotakis said on Twitter.

“Thank you, Mr Prime Minister,” Erdogan tweeted in reply. “That two neighbours show solidarity in difficult times is more valuable than many things in life.”

The US State Department said Washington was “heartened” by the newfound cooperation.

France, whose President Emmanuel Macron has sparred repeatedly with Erdogan in the past year, said it stood in “full solidarity” with the two countries.

In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey’s northwest, killing more than 17,000 people, including 1,000 in Istanbul.

In Greece, the last deadly quake killed two people on the island of Kos, near Samos, in July 2017.

AFP

 

Two Teenagers Killed As Earthquake Hits Greece’s Samos Island

Rescuers search for survivors at a collapsed building after a powerful earthquake struck Turkey’s western coast and parts of Greece, in Izmir, on October 30, 2020.  MERT CAKIR / AFP

 

Two teenage students were killed on the Greek island of Samos on Friday when the wall of a building collapsed after a powerful quake hit the Aegean region.

Public television Ert said the victims, the first to be reported in Greece, were aged 15 and 17.

The pair were walking home from school in the port town of Vathy when disaster struck after 1:51 pm (1151 GMT).

“Words fail when children are lost. In these difficult hours, our thoughts turn to their families and Samos experiencing unbearable pain,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted Friday.

The fire service said, “two unconscious youngsters were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed wall and taken to hospital for identification.”

The Greek authorities said another four people were injured in the quake, which caused the walls of several old buildings to crumble.

One of the injured is a 14-year-old girl with badly broken bones who has been transferred to a hospital in Athens aboard a C-130 plane.

The earthquake hit neighbouring Turkey’s west coast particularly hard, killing 12 people and injuring 419 others, according to the country’s disaster relief agency.

AFP

Six Dead, Buildings Collapse As Major Quake Hits Turkey, Greece

This picture shows destroyed car and collapsed buildings after an earthquake in the island of Samos on October 30, 2020.  STR / Eurokinissi / AFP

 

A powerful earthquake hit Turkey and Greece on Friday, killing at least six people, levelling buildings and creating a sea surge that flooded streets near the Turkish resort city of Izmir.

Greek public television said the quake also caused a mini-tsunami on the eastern Aegean Sea island of Samos, damaged homes and injured at least four people.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.0 magnitude quake was registered 14 kilometres (almost nine miles) off the Greek town of Karlovasi on Samos.

The Turkish government’s disaster agency reported a lower magnitude of 6.6 for the quake while Greece’s seismological agency said it measured 6.7.

Much of the damage in Turkey occurred in and around the Aegean resort city of Izmir, which has around three million residents.

– Woman pulled out alive –
Images from the popular vacation destination showed collapsed apartment buildings and dazed people trying to make their way through rubbled piled high on the streets.

“Oh my God!” one passerby shouted near a collapsed building in one image that went viral in Turkey.

In another, a crowd let out a relieved cheer and broke out in applause as one woman was pulled out alive in tears.

Izmir’s mayor Tunc Soyer told CNN Turk that 20 buildings had collapsed, with officials saying they were focusing their rescue efforts on 12 of them.

Turkey’s disaster agency reported the death of six people and said that more than 200 were injured.

But scenes of devastation suggested the toll could rise.

– Rescuers using chainsaws –
Images on social media showed water rushing through the streets of one of the towns near Izmir from an apparent sea surge.

Thick white plumes smoke rose from various parts of the city itself, where buildings had collapsed.

Aerial footage on Turkey’s NTV television showed entire city blocks turned to rubble.

Footage showed rescuers being helped by residents and police using chainsaws as they tried to force their way through the rubble of a seven-floor building that had collapsed.

Rescuers called for silence for signs of any survivors, clearing boulders and other debris in a human chain.

As the hours wore on, the region’s governor Yavuz Kosger said 70 people had been pulled out of the rubble alive.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that he was ready to help “with all the means available to our state”.

– ‘It was chaos’ –
On the Greek island of Samos, near the quake’s epicentre, people rushed out into the streets in panic.

“The walls of some houses have crumbled and several buildings are damaged,” the island’s deputy mayor Michalis Mitsios was quoted as saying by public broadcaster ERT.

“It was chaos,” added fellow deputy mayor Giorgos Dionysiou. “We have never experienced anything like this.”

The Greek civil protection agency told Samos residents in a text message to “stay out in the open and away from buildings”.

Greece and Turkey are both situated in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

The two uneasy neighbours also suffer from historically poor relations despite both being members of the NATO military alliance.

But the quake saw a spurt of what pundits immediately termed “earthquake diplomacy”, after the two countries’ foreign ministers promised to help each in a rare phone call.

“Greek Foreign Minister (Nikos) Dendias called our minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to wish him the best. Both ministers stressed they were ready to help each other in case of need,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.

 


People walk past a destroyed house after an earthquake in the island of Samos on October 30, 2020.  STR / Eurokinissi / AFP

 

Top Erdogan aide Fahrettin Altun tweeted that the disaster “reminds us once again how close we are despite our differences over policy”.

Some of the world’s strongest earthquakes have been registered along a fault line that runs across Turkey to Greece.

In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey’s northwest, killing more than 17,000 people, including 1,000 in Istanbul.

Another quake in 2011 in the southeastern province of Van resulted in more than 600 deaths.

In Greece, the last deadly quake killed two people on the island of Kos, near Samos, in July 2017.

AFP

Biden Urges Pressure On Turkey Over Greece Tensions

emocratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the coronavirus outbreak, at the Hotel Du Pont March 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Health officials say 11,000 people have been tested for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP.

 

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden called Tuesday for US pressure on Turkey to reduce tensions with Greece, after his previous criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan caused a stir.

The former vice president, who leads President Donald Trump in polls ahead of the November 3 election, applauded efforts by Greece and Turkey to ease friction through talks.

“The Trump administration must press Turkey to refrain from any further provocative actions in the region against Greece, including threats of force, to create the space for diplomacy to succeed,” Biden said in a statement.

Tensions soared between the NATO allies after Turkey in August sent a vessel backed by military frigates to hunt for oil and gas reserves in waters claimed by Greece, which responded with naval exercises.

Turkey recently condemned Biden after he called Erdogan an “autocrat,” saying in a New York Times interview that the United States should “embolden” rivals to defeat him, although “not by a coup.”

Trump has developed a warm relationship with Erdogan, who has been Turkey’s pre-eminent leader since 2003, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week also showed support for Greece on a visit.

In his latest statement, Biden also called on Erdogan to reverse his decision to convert Istanbul’s Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia back into a mosque, saying the former cathedral should remain a museum with “equal access for all, including the Orthodox faithful.”

The State Department voiced disappointment after Turkey made the change in July, although the US ambassador visited Hagia Sophia soon afterward.

AFP

Pompeo Wraps Up Greece Visit With Naval Base Tour

Pompeo
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stand in front of the Greek Naval frigate Salamis during their visit to the Naval Support Activity base at Souda, the foremost US naval facility in the eastern Mediterranean on the Greek island of Crete. . (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / various sources / AFP)

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday concludes a two-day visit to Greece on with a tour of a strategically vital NATO base.

Pompeo will visit the Souda facility in Crete with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on a trip aimed at easing tensions between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.

Washington has urged the NATO allies and neighbours, who have agreed to continue exploratory talks interrupted in 2016, to find “good solutions” to disputes exacerbated by energy exploration disagreements.

“We hope the exploratory talks not only get kicked off right, but it’s important that they’re resolved in a way that delivers outcomes that each of the two nations find more than acceptable,” Pompeo told Greek state agency ANA on Monday.

“It’s not just talking, we need to get to good solutions,” he added.

Greece and Turkey have spent weeks at loggerheads after Ankara sent exploration vessels into disputed, potentially resource-rich waters in a crisis that roped in other European powers and raised concern about a wider escalation.

In a joint statement on Monday after talks in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, Pompeo and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias said rival claims to territory in the Mediterranean should be resolved “peacefully in accordance with international law.”

The 110-acre (44-hectare) Naval Support Activity base at Souda is the foremost US naval facility in the eastern Mediterranean.

Mitsotakis — who is hosting Pompeo at his family home in Crete — wants closer military ties with the United States.

Pompeo last October signed a defence agreement with Greek authorities allowing US forces a broader use of Greek military facilities.

Greece intends to further upgrade the naval facilities at Souda for its own navy operations, Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told parliament on Monday.

“Our country wants to make its presence felt in the eastern Mediterranean, and this will be done through the upgrade of Souda,” Panagiotopoulos said, according to ANA.

On Wednesday, Pompeo will fly to Rome for meetings with the Italian government and Vatican officials. He will subsequently visit Croatia.

-AFP

Pompeo Urges Greece, Turkey To Resolve Territorial Dispute

In this file photo taken on December 11, 2019 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. AFP

 

The United States welcomed on Monday Greece’s willingness to look for a solution to a territorial dispute with Turkey, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with Greek officials.

Rival claims to potentially resource-rich territory under the Mediterranean should be resolved “peacefully in accordance with international law”, said Pompeo and Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in a joint statement after holding talks in Thessaloniki.

The two NATO members have spent weeks at loggerheads after Ankara sent exploration vessels into disputed waters, roping in other European powers and raising concern about a wider escalation.

Turkey has also angered Greece by repeatedly casting doubt on postwar treaties setting out the status quo in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.

But last week Athens and Ankara said they were ready to start talks.

“Let’s meet, let’s talk and let’s seek a mutually acceptable solution. Let’s give diplomacy a chance,” Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an address to the virtual UN General Assembly.

Pompeo, on a two-day visit to Greece, said in the joint statement that the US “welcomed Greece’s confirmed readiness to engage with other countries in the region to achieve maritime delimitation agreements”.

“The strength of our bilateral relationship is at an all-time high,” Pompeo tweeted earlier on Monday.

He will fly to the Greek island of Crete on Tuesday and tour the NATO naval base of Souda Bay.

Mitsotakis — who is hosting Pompeo at his family home on Crete — wants closer military ties with the US.

The secretary of state last October signed a defence agreement allowing US forces a broader use of Greek military facilities.

On Monday, both sides said they intended to “further enhance their strategic defence and security partnership” in talks in Washington next year.

A key element of the October deal was the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis, a Balkans and Black Sea gateway of strategic value to the US navy and NATO.

The US has been granted priority status to the port after paying roughly $2.3 million (2 million euros) to remove a sunken dredging barge that had blocked part of the harbour since 2010.

At the time, Greek officials said the Pentagon was expected to invest over $14 million on the Greek airbase of Larissa and around six million euros at Marathi, part of the Souda base.

– Pressure on Huawei –

The visit to Thessaloniki is also intended as a sign to the Balkans on American willingness to invest in the region, the State Department said.

Pompeo signed a bilateral science and technology agreement, and hosted an energy sector gathering of business leaders.

Pompeo’s tour later in the week also includes stops in Italy, the Vatican and Croatia.

In Rome, the secretary of state will discuss efforts by the Trump administration to deter its European allies from using equipment by Chinese manufacturer Huawei in developing their 5G networks.

The US accuses Huawei of being a tool for Chinese espionage.

Pompeo is also scheduled to attend a meeting at the Vatican on religious freedom, his human rights priority. There, too, he will warn of China’s actions against minorities, including Muslims.

AFP

Greece To Boost Economy With 6.8bn Euro Stimulus

A file photo of Greece flag.

 

 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Sunday Athens would spend an extra 6.8 billion euros ($8.0 billion) to fight the coronavirus’s impact on the country’s economy.

A slew of new outlays will include slashing companies’ social contributions, creating 100,000 jobs and tax cuts for residents on tourist islands that have suffered from the pandemic’s impact on travel, the PM told journalists in the port city Thessaloniki.

Mitsotakis added that he would extend out-of-work benefits for an extra two months, in the country with the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone.

The measures come on top of a 24-billion-euro package decided in spring.

Greek output shrank by 15.2 percent in the second quarter, and Mitsotakis forecast a contraction of “between eight and nine percent of GDP” over the full year before a 2021 rebound.

Greece’s central bank predicts GDP down 5.8 percent this year, while the IMF’s outlook is for a 10-percent plunge.

While the tourism sector brought in more than 18 billion euros for the Greek economy last year, the 2020 take may reach only 3.5 billion according to the SETE industry group.

Over the decade of its agonising debt crisis from 2008-18, Greek GDP shrank by almost one-quarter.

The country had returned to growth in recent years, but its economy remains delicate.

Although Greece has suffered less from the coronavirus than its European neighbours, recording just 305 deaths so far, the strict lockdown imposed for six weeks in spring brought activity to a halt and delayed the start of tourist season.

AFP

Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France To Hold Military Exercises From Wednesday

A handout photo released by the Greek National Defence Ministry on August 26, 2020 shows military personnel of the Hellenic Navy during a military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, on August 25, 2020. Handout / GREEK DEFENCE MINISTRY / AFP.

 

Greece said it will launch military exercises Wednesday with France, Italy and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, the focus of escalating tensions between Athens and Ankara.

The joint exercises south of Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete will last three days, the defence ministry said.

The discovery of major gas deposits in waters surrounding Crete and Cyprus has triggered a scramble for energy riches and revived old rivalries between NATO members Greece and Turkey.

Tensions ratched up another notch when Turkey sent the Oruc Reis research vessel accompanied by warships to disputed waters on August 10.

“Cyprus, Greece, France and Italy have agreed to deploy a joint presence in the eastern Mediterranean as part of the quadripartite cooperation initiative,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

“The tensions and instability in the eastern Mediterranean have heightened disputes on issues concerning maritime space.”

Turkey said on Tuesday it is ready for talks with Greece without preconditions over the row.

The olive branch came ahead of an informal EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin on Thursday and Friday at which Greece is expected to press the bloc to slap biting sanctions on its historic regional rival.

But EU nations would prefer to avoid irritating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas shuttled between Athens and Ankara in a bid to temper the rhetoric and get talks back on track.

Maas, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told the two countries to defuse the row or risk sparking a “catastrophe”.

AFP

Man Utd Captain, Harry Maguire, Released From Police Custody In Greece

 In this file photo taken on July 26, 2020 Manchester United's English defender Harry Maguire reacts during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England. Oli SCARFF / POOL / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 26, 2020 Manchester United’s English defender Harry Maguire reacts during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England. Oli SCARFF / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire was released from Greek police custody Saturday, TV footage showed, ahead of a hearing on assault charges on the island of Mykonos.

Wearing a baseball cap and mask, Maguire was shown leaving a courthouse on neighbouring Syros island, accompanied by what appeared to be members of his legal team, and boarding a dark minivan.

The England centre-back’s hearing has been set for Tuesday but he is not obliged to be present.

Manchester United said in a statement: “Following the appearance in court today we note the adjournment of the case to allow the legal team to consider the case file.

“Harry has pleaded not guilty to the charges. It would be inappropriate for the player or club to comment further while the legal process takes its course,” the club said.

His lawyer Constantinos Darivas had earlier told Greek sports website gazzetta.gr that the England centre-back had denied the charges, and was in “fine condition” despite spending two nights in detention since his Thursday night arrest.

Manchester United football team captain Harry Maguire (2nd L) leaves a courthouse on the Greek island of Syros, the administrative hub of the Cycladic island group that includes Mykonos on August 22, 2020. EUROKINISSI / AFP
Manchester United football team captain Harry Maguire (2nd L) leaves a courthouse on the Greek island of Syros, the administrative hub of the Cycladic island group that includes Mykonos on August 22, 2020. EUROKINISSI / AFP

 

Greek TV channel Mega said Maguire’s father had flown to Greece to be at his son’s side.

The case is being heard on the island of Syros, the administrative hub of the Cycladic island group that includes Mykonos.

The £80 million (88 million euros) defender was arrested late Thursday after what Greek police described as an “altercation” between two groups of British tourists on Mykonos.

Mega said Maguire had become enraged after someone in the other group struck his sister.

A Greek police statement on Friday said that three men aged 27, 28 and 29 had been arrested in Mykonos.

The police said an officer was punched on the scene, and that a second fight had broken out at the local police station where the three men “strenuously resisted (arrest), pushing and striking three officers.”

One of the suspects then tried to bribe the officers to hush up the incident, the police said.

The suspects are accused of assault, resisting arrest, verbally insulting and threatening the arresting officers, and attempted bribery, the police said.

Four Mykonos officers sustained slight injuries in the fracas, the authorities said.

Mykonos is popular with sports stars and celebrities for its all-night nightlife and beaches.

United’s 2019/20 season ended Sunday in a 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League semi-finals.

But the club will be back in pre-season training in two weeks and could begin the new Premier League campaign in less than a month.

On Monday, Maguire had tweeted after the elimination: “Time to go away, reflect, recover and be ready to come back stronger next season.”

 

AFP