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article imageErdogan holds Brussels talks as EU mulls taking in children refugees

By Dave CLARK (AFP)     Mar 9, 2020 in World

EU chiefs meet Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday to warn him not to trigger a renewed migrant crisis on their southeastern border, as member states offered to take in some child refugees.

The Turkish leader was due in the EU capital for talks with EU presidents Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, and also NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

European leaders are considering taking in 1,500 child refugees to ease pressure on overwhelmed camps on Greek islands facing a new wave of arrivals from Turkey.

But von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, said there was no immediate concrete offer of new funding to revive a deal with Turkey to keep refugees from Syria and beyond.

"We will restart the dialogue," she said, ahead of her meeting with Erdogan, adding that there would be "considerable discussions in the next few days and weeks."

Pressed on whether more money was on the table to appease Ankara's concerns, she said: "I was already very clear that we are at the beginning, and no numbers are being discussed at the very start."

Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers have been trying to break through the land border from Turkey for a week after Ankara announced it would no longer prevent people from trying to cross into the European Union.

Turkey, which hosts around four million mostly Syrian refugees, has repeatedly railed against what it describes as unfair burden-sharing.

Erdogan called on Greece to "open the gates" to the migrants after Greek police used tear gas and water cannon in skirmishes with crowds at the border.

"I hope I will return from Belgium with different outcomes," he said at a speech in Istanbul on Sunday as he announced the meeting.

"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."

And on Monday, Erdogan's communications director Fahrettin Altun repeated allegations -- denied by Greece -- that border authorities have used excessive force against migrants.

- 'Fulfilling promises' -

"The refugee crisis isn't going away," he tweeted. "The European Union cannot just throw money at this problem or solve it with excessive and lethal force... It's time take meaningful steps together."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Greece to 'open the gates' to the migrant...
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Greece to 'open the gates' to the migrants
Pavel Golovkin, POOL/AFP

Early on Monday, Germany said the EU was considering taking in up to 1,500 migrant children who are currently housed in Greek camps. Von der Leyen said France, Portugal, Luxembourg and Finland had also offered to take in some.

In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said Turkey "bears a clear responsibility" for sending the refugees to the border and that it was trying to put its own problems "onto the backs on these people."

On Friday, Erdogan ordered the Turkish coastguard to prevent risky Aegean sea crossings after more than 1,700 migrants landed on Lesbos and four other Aegean islands.

But Turkey's policy of allowing migrants and refugees to leave by land remains in place, and the instruction only affects sea crossings.

Germany said the EU was considering taking in up to 1 500 migrant children who are currently housed ...
Germany said the EU was considering taking in up to 1,500 migrant children who are currently housed in Greek camps
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI, AFP

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 that were made while Europe suffered its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Over a million people fled to the continent in 2015.

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.

But the president 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.

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