Turkey’s Erdogan leaves EU talks without agreement on migrants

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he expects to host the leaders of Germany and France next week for talks on how to reboot a deal that stemmed the flow of migrants to the European Union, after a meeting in Brussels ended in deadlock. After the breakdown in discussions, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused European Union nations of not sticking by earlier promises to provide funds to help look after millions of migrants on Turkish soil and allow visa-free travel to the EU for Turks.

The European Union remains committed to its refugee pact with Turkey and the agreement remains valid, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday evening after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels. The talks were held amid a tense days-long dispute between the EU and Turkey over migrants on its border with Greece.

Erdogan had declared on 29 February that the border with the EU was open to migrants, which is a violation of the EU-Turkey agreement.

Von der Leyen said that an analysis will be done on which parts of the agreement have not been implemented and why.

Also speaking after the meeting, EU Council President Charles Michel said the EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner and Turkish Foreign Minister should work with a team of experts and clarify the differences in opinions on the agreement's implementation within the next few days.

Both Michel and von der Leyen praised the talks with Erdogan, however, neither of them presented concrete results and Erdogan was not present at their press conference. Ahead of the meeting, Von der Leyen said that the situation appeared deadlocked.

Following the talks in Brussels late Monday, European Council President Charles Michel said teams headed by Cavusoglu and EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borell, would work “in the next days to clarify the implementation of the deal between Turkey and the EU to be certain that we are on the same page.”

“We are ready for a constructive study ... We expect sincerity from the EU. The era of stringing Turkey along is over,” Cavusoglu told state-run Anadolu Agency.

Cavusoglu said the sides would work toward “updating” the Turkey-EU deal in line with recent developments, including the situation in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, where a Syrian government offensive has driven thousands of Syrians toward the border with Turkey.

The Turkish leader called for clear support from NATO during his meeting with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday afternoon. Erdogan had already given NATO a list of 10 requests including greater air support on the Turkish-Syrian border, more reconnaissance aircraft, surveillance drones and more ships in the eastern Mediterranean, according to diplomatic sources.

On Monday, Stoltenberg said the alliance was already supporting Turkey and would continue to do so.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking at a German-Greek economic forum in Berlin, said Greece and the EU will not allow themselves to be "blackmailed" by Turkey over the migrant crisis.

Mitsotakis said that this was a "critical" moment for Greece and Europe and demanded that Erdogan contribute to de-escalation during his visit to Brussels on Monday. He said that Turkey was trying to turn tens of thousands of migrants into "illegal intruders." The EU's external border had to be protected, Mitsotakis said, and he urged Turkey to take back illegal migrants who have been arrested on Greek territory.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking at the same forum in Berlin, expressed determination to prevent a repeat of the European refugee crisis, saying that "2020 is not 2015" and calling Turkey's actions "unacceptable." She assured citizens that politicians are holding myriad meetings in order to find a solution to the problem and to get migration under control, a goal that has so far evaded the divided EU member states.

Thousands of migrants recently set off towards the EU border in Greece, where Greek border troops prevented them from crossing. Greece suspended asylum procedures for new applicants one month.

After a week of skirmishes with migrants attempting to break through the border fence, tear gas flying both ways and alleged provocation by Turkish patrols, the border zone was quieter on the day of Erdogan's trip.

Greek state broadcaster ERT quoted police as saying that only a few stone-throwing incidents occurred between Sunday evening and Monday morning

Athens authorities said that they prevented around 1,650 attempts to cross the border illegally at the Kastanies/Pazarkule crossing and detained two who managed to make it onto Greek soil. Arrivals were also lower than usual on the Greek Aegean islands.

Last week von der Leyen appealed to EU members to take in children. Several states, among them France, Portugal, Luxembourg, Finland, Croatia and Germany, indicated they were willing to help.

On Monday the German coalition decided to offer Greece support from Berlin for up to 1,500 children.

The EU-Turkey agreement of 2016 stipulates that Ankara will prevent illegal migration towards the EU. In return, the bloc promised €6 billion to care for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

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