Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu addresses the media in Ankara yesterday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu yesterday slammed an EU offer of financial help to Turkey to ease the migrant crisis as unacceptable, saying an action plan agreed in Brussels was a draft and not final.
“There is a financial package proposed by the EU and we told them it is unacceptable,” Sinirlioglu told reporters.
He said the action plan agreed late Thursday is “not final” and merely “a draft on which we are working”.
The EU and Turkey had struck late Thursday what was described as a deal on an action plan aimed at stemming a massive influx of migrants into the bloc.
The minister complained that the EU had been seeking to give the funds out of the budget allocated for Turkey.
“It is out of the question for us to accept an understanding of aiding Syrian refugees from funds allocated for Turkey,” he said.
The final offer had to be more than the “insignificant and meaningless amount that they proposed before,” he said.
He refused to provide any exact amount Ankara required but said: “If (the EU) delivers 3bn euros ($3.4 bn) in the initial phase, it would be meaningful.”
“We have spent $8bn (on refugees) and our gross national product is around $800bn. Their (GNP) is $18tn.
“Three billion euro versus $18tn (GNP) is comic but it is much better than the $500mn that they had delivered.”
Sinirlioglu rejected any “bargaining” with the EU, saying: “The aid to be delivered will not be for Turkey but to support Syrians in desperation.”
Turkey is the main departure point for the more than 600,000 migrants who have entered Europe this year, most of them making the short but dangerous sea crossing to the Greek islands, but some also coming by land.
The EU action plan also focusses on measures to combat people smuggling, notably reinforcing the Turkish coastguard patrolling and surveillance capacities.
Sinirlioglu vowed that Turkey would keep on combatting human smugglers but said solutions must be produced to eradicate the reasons for illegal migration. One of them, he said, is creating conditions that will keep refugees inside their own country.
This includes creating a safe zone inside Syria, he said, an idea that has only found a lukewarm solution from Turkey’s western partners.
“Before anything else, this is a humanitarian need,” he said.
Turkey is currently hosting close to 2.5mn refugees — 2.2mn of them Syrians fleeing the four-and-a-half year conflict in their country and as well as 300,000 Iraqis and 50,000 Afghans. Only 266,000 Syrians stay in camps along the border and the rest live in Turkish towns, leading to social tensions.
Sinirlioglu’s comments came after a high ranking EU delegation including EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and EU commission vice president Frans Timmermans visited Turkey this week in search of a deal on the migrant issue.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due in Istanbul for talks with Turkish leaders tomorrow.
However Sinirlioglu did not seem impressed by the sudden diplomatic traffic.
“The EU all of a sudden have rediscovered Turkey,” he commented. “Turkey is not a country to just be remembered at times of crisis and not a county to co-operate with only for tactical reasons,” he noted.
Turkey’s EU accession talks have been stalled amid concerns over its human rights record and suspicions it has its own agenda in Syria. Sinirlioglu said Turkey’s EU membership was a “strategic objective” but warned: “If the EU sees Turkey as a country to co-operate with for tactical reasons, then we will have a restricted co-operation
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