Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will hold talks in Brussels Monday as he called on Greece to “open the gates” for migrants at Turkey’s border trying to get to Europe.
“I will have a meeting with European Union officials tomorrow (Monday) in Belgium,” Erdogan said during a speech in Istanbul Sunday. He added he would discuss the migration issue after Turkey opened its borders. “I hope I will return from Belgium with different outcomes.”
Turkey’s decision to open its border sparked an escalating row between Ankara and Brussels, as well as a war of words between Turkey and Greece. Erdogan will meet European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels at 18:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Monday.
Invasion: Tens of thousands of military-aged male migrants have massed at the Turkey-Greece border and have been throwing rocks and missiles at border guards. https://t.co/S8YRFm1vi6
— David Kurten (@davidkurten) March 1, 2020
They will “discuss EU-Turkey matters, including migration, security, stability in the region and the crisis in Syria,” Michel’s spokesman, Barend Leyts, said on Twitter.
Turkey repeatedly rails against what it describes as unfair burden-sharing, since around four million mostly Syrian refugees live in Turkey.
In 2016, Turkey and the EU agreed a deal whereby Brussels would provide billions of euros in aid in exchange for Turkish authorities curbing the flow of migrants.
But Ankara has repeatedly accused the bloc of not fulfilling promises made as Europe suffered its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Over a million people fled to the continent in 2015.
Erdogan’s top press aide Fahrettin Altun has said one of the unmet conditions was that the EU would take in refugees from Turkey.
‘Let them go’
During the same televised speech, Erdogan urged Greece to open its border after clashes in recent days between migrants and Greek police.
“Hey Greece! I appeal to you… open the gates as well and be free of this burden,” he said, adding: “Let them go to other European countries.”
Thousands of migrants massed on the land border with Greece after Turkey last month said it would no longer prevent people from leaving the country.
Erdogan also criticised the West’s silence after Greek authorities used tear gas and water cannon during skirmishes with migrants.
This is not just a "refugee crisis" – it never was. It is a result both of Erdogan's biopolitics (his "refugee blackmail" coming true) and Greece's militarization. But it is at the same time a despicable picture of the so called "European project". https://t.co/yCvEnTWTYt
— Srećko Horvat (@HorvatSrecko) March 1, 2020
But Erdogan on Friday ordered the Turkish coastguard to prevent risky Aegean sea crossings after more than 1,700 migrants landed on Lesbos and four other Aegean islands from Turkey over the past week.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Michel met Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday as Turkey demanded greater support over the conflict and migrants.
After the talks, Borrell promised an additional 170 million euros ($192 million) in aid for vulnerable groups in Syria.
Erdogan has felt extra pressure as nearly a million people in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib fled towards the Turkish border during the recent Syrian regime assault backed by Russia and Iran.
Read more: Arab migrants left on the streets in Spain
But Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed a ceasefire on Thursday after Turkey launched an offensive against Damascus following the deaths of 59 Turkish security personnel in attacks blamed on the regime.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk