Turkey says hopes for new EU migrant deal by March 26

By: AFP      Published: 02:46 PM, 10 Mar, 2020
Turkey says hopes for new EU migrant deal by March 26

Turkey hopes to reach a new agreement with Europe to deal with refugees in time for the next EU leaders' summit, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday. 

"If we reach an agreement by March 26 when there will be an EU leaders' summit, this issue will come on to the agenda of this meeting," Cavusoglu said. 

"We are ready for constructive work," he added.

He spoke a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held tense discussions with EU presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel in Brussels. 

Turkey's decision at the end of February to re-open its border for refugees seeking to reach Europe sparked a row with Brussels, as well as harsh exchanges with Greece. 

"If we are to come up with a roadmap with the EU, we expect them to be sincere," Cavusoglu said. 

"It is not only about keeping migrants in return for more money," he added. 

Turkey agreed in 2016 to prevent migrant departures in exchange for six billion euros and talks on building closer ties. 

It says it has not received all the money, and that other promises -- including improved visa and trade rules -- have not been met. 

Erdogan skipped the post-talks press conference in Brussels on Monday. 

"Clearly we do have our disagreements, but we have spoken plainly and we have spoken openly to each other," Von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, told reporters.

Turkey hosts some four million refugees -- most of them from Syria -- and faces a fresh influx as the Syrian regime, backed by Russia and Iran, seeks to retake the last rebel stronghold of Idlib on the Turkish border. 

Europe has said it will consider taking 1,500 child refugees, but has focused on reinforcing Greece's borders.

Although Turkey and Russia agreed a ceasefire for Idlib last week, previous peace deals have proved temporary and Ankara has called for greater assistance from its NATO allies. 

Cavusoglu confirmed Tuesday that Turkey had requested Patriot missile defences from NATO. The issue has been complicated by Turkey's controversial decision to buy Russian S-400 missile defences.