By Idyli Tsakiri
ATHENS, Greece (AA) – Countries should not jump to assumptions on refugees who are often “running away from the same terrorists we are trying to protect ourselves from” a senior EU figure warned on Thursday.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, was speaking at the EU-Arab World Summit in Athens.
“Waves of terrorist attacks over the past years have shaken our societies to their foundations,” Avramopoulos told the event, which was also attended by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
According to the commissioner, more than 65 million people were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015 alone.
UNHCR numbers suggest that at least 61,000 of them are currently residing in Greece.
In opening remarks, Tsipras said it was “essential to strengthen the cooperation between the EU and Arab countries to be able to handle challenges like terrorism, the refugee crisis and migration".
"This period calls for new steps towards peace and stability in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen,” he said.
Tsipras was one of the opening speakers of the summit and during his speech he stressed the importance of a strong bond between EU and Arab countries in terms of investment, trade, energy and tourism.
On an international level, Tsipras said now was a critical point for EU-Arab relations.
“Security and regional cooperation are prerequisites towards the development and the prosperity of our people,” the Greek PM concluded.
He was speaking after a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Greece on Wednesday. Earlier that day, a senior Russian military official had revealed there will be a “humanitarian pause” in Russian airstrikes in and around the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.