Turkey in talks on migrant crisis with UK, Germany, France

EU has called on Ankara to stop refugees on Turkish territory from crossing into Greece

A child in the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday. The EU has urged Turkey to stop migrants in the country - from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and countries in Africa - from trying to cross the border to Greece and on to th
A child in the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday. The EU has urged Turkey to stop migrants in the country - from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and countries in Africa - from trying to cross the border to Greece and on to the rest of the bloc.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ANKARA • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a teleconference yesterday with German, French and British leaders to discuss Turkey's stand-off with the European Union after it opened its borders to migrants trying to enter the bloc.

Tens of thousands of migrants tried to get into Greece, a EU member state, after Turkey on Feb 28 said it would no longer keep them on its territory as part of a 2016 deal with Brussels in return for EU aid.

Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrians, the world's largest refugee population, and fears that Syrian government forces could drive another three million across its borders from the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib.

The EU has urged Turkey to stop the migrants, who are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and countries in Africa, from trying to cross the border.

Greece has used tear gas and water cannon against the migrants, and both countries have sent troops or security forces to the border. Ankara has accused Greek forces of shooting dead four migrants at the border, a claim Athens strongly denies.

Mr Erdogan, visiting Brussels last week, was told by EU leaders that he must stop encouraging migrants to cross into Greece if Ankara wants the bloc to provide further backing.

"The support that can be given to Turkey, what can be done following Erdogan's talks in Brussels and the evaluation of EU leaders will be handled (in the conference call)," a Turkish official told Reuters, adding that they would also discuss the coronavirus pandemic and fighting in Libya.

The talks were originally planned as a summit meeting in Istanbul. That was changed after the spread of the coronavirus prompted all four countries to impose travel restrictions.

The four leaders were to discuss updating the 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey under which the bloc pledged €6 billion (S$9.4 billion) in aid to finance projects for Syrian refugees in Turkey. They would also discuss the situation in Syria's north-western province of Idlib, where a nearly two-week-old ceasefire struck by Russia and Turkey is broadly holding.

Mr Erdogan has repeatedly said that the EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have to support Turkey to protect civilians there.

REUTERS

UNDER DISCUSSION

The support that can be given to Turkey, what can be done following Erdogan's talks in Brussels and the evaluation of EU leaders will be handled (in the conference call).

A TURKISH OFFICIAL, on the teleconference between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German, French and British leaders.

 

  • 3.6m

    Number of Syrians Turkey is host to. It is the world's largest refugee population.

    3m

    A further number of refugees that Turkey fears Syrian government forces could drive across its borders from the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2020, with the headline 'Turkey in talks on migrant crisis with UK, Germany, France'. Subscribe