Turkey’s Erdogan Calls on Greece to Open its Borders, Let Migrants Pass Through to Europe

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister following a meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on February 5, 2019. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)
ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images

The Islamist president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called on Greece to open its borders to allow thousands of migrants to pass through the country into other European nations.

Erdogan, who is meeting with European Union and NATO leaders in Brussels on Monday, said that he will demand “much more support” in return for curbing the flow of migrants attempting to enter the bloc illegally.

“Hey Greece! I appeal to you… open the gates as well and be free of this burden… Let them go to other European countries,” Mr Erdogan said in a speech on Sunday, per The Telegraph.

The Turkish leader had previously agreed to place controls on migration, holding back an estimated 3.6 million asylum seekers, after a deal was struck between Turkey and the EU in 2016, in which European nations, including the UK, sent billions of pounds in aid to the Islamic government in Ankara.

Turkey has claimed that the EU did not fulfil its financial obligations, as well as demanding visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and greater alignment on trade.

“We have fulfilled the obligations of the agreement we have made with the EU. However, the EU did not fulfil its commitments except for minimal contributions … I hope we will get different results this time,” Mr Erdogan said.

While Erdogan meets with EU leaders in Brussels, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin to shore up international support for his efforts to maintain Greece’s border.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis declared on Friday that the deal between Turkey and the EU is now “dead” as “Turkey has decided to completely violate the agreement”. He went on to accuse Turkey of using “migrants and refugees as geopolitical pawns to promote its own interests”.

In his meeting in Berlin, the Greek leader will also press for more distribution of migrants throughout the European Union according to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

The call for redistribution of asylum seekers is reminiscent of Angela Merkel’s call for EU member states to take their “fair share” of migrants during the height of the 2015 migrant crisis, which led to a populist backlash throughout the bloc.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday that Germany would consider increasing the aid to Turkey in return for more controls on migration, but said that Turkey should not use migrants as “political pawns”.

“Europe’s message to Turkey is clear: We believe in a fair sharing of the burden, but we do not accept that people who find themselves in desperate situations should be misused as political pawns,” Maas said according to Deutsche Welle.

“Negotiations made at the expense of the weakest will not give the desired result,” Maas added.

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