Greece and Turkey have achieved a lot in their extensive collaboration, Turkish Ambassador to Greece Halit Cevik told reporters at a press briefing in his residence on Tuesday.

The briefing was on the humanitarian and development assistance aspect of Turkish foreign policy, and detailed some of the challenges Turkey faces with the influx of irregular migrants from both east and west borders.

Speaking of the relations between the two countries, the ambassador said, ?We are in a rough neighborhood, both Greece and Turkey; there are so many crises around our countries and we are tackling some of them together.?

Turkey, he said, is leading in humanitarian assistance globally, followed by Norway and Switzerland. ?The bulk of our humanitarian assistance goes to the Syrians in Turkey,? the ambassador said. The country has ?about 4.5 million refugees and out of this 3,5 million are Syrian.?

Distinguishing between irregular migration and refugees, Cevik said that Turkey faced a steep rise in the influx of irregular migrants at all its borders, but especially on the eastern ones, where a 179% rise was recorded in 2018 from 2017.

Speaking on the EU-Turkey agreement on migrants, the Turkish ambassador said the number of migrants Greece has returned to Turkey since March 18, 2016 totals 1,740; of these, 309 are Syrians. Cevik expressed the thought that if the number were higher it might work as a deterrent for prospective migrants preparing to cross the Aegean Sea, and said the two countries needed to continue working together to control migration effectively.

Apropos of the meeting, Cevik said he expected to retire from the diplomatic corps at the end of the year, when his assignment to Greece ends. It was a privilege to end his career in Athens, he said, where he had made a lot of friends.