Nobody should expect Turkey to host migrants permanently on its soil, Turkey is not a concentration camp for refugees, said PM Ahmet Davutoglu on October 19, a day after holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Istanbul on the refugee crisis.
Merkel visited Turkey on October 18 to seek Turkey’s support for stemming the refugee flow, mainly from the warn-torn Syria, offering sweeteners in return for Turkey’s cooperation, including financial aid, resuming Turkey’s protracted accession talks with the EU and liberalisation of visa regime. Merkel’s visit came amid a EU summit on October 15 where EU leaders discussed an action plan with Turkey.
Despite the positive comments from Davutoglu and Merkel following the Istanbul meeting, it emerged that the sides still need to hold further talks to iron out their differences.
“We cannot accept an understanding like ‘give us the money and they stay in Turkey,” said Davutoglu, adding that Turkey may need more than €3bn in aid. “We spoke of €3bn as ‘fresh money’ but it is not a fixed sum. Turkey’s financial needs may increase.”
Merkel’s visit just two weeks before Turkey’s crucial elections drew criticism as this was widely seen as a political gesture to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who the EU has long criticised for his increasingly authoritarian rule. But the German Chancellor’s trip to Istanbul and promises she made also underlined the pivotal role of Turkey in stemming the refugee crisis.
Turkey’s leaders used Merkel’s visit to push for Ankara plans to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria, arguing that ending the civil war there would only stop the refugee flows. Turkey proposed the safe zone in the north of Syria as a shelter for anti-regime groups, but its allies, including the US, do not see it as a feasible option, especially after Russia’s direct involvement in the conflict. Moscow began its airstrikes in Syria in late September. Erdogan has been calling for regime change in Syria and the government supports anti-Assad forces.
However, a Turkish source told the Hurriyet Daily News that the Turkish government has agreed on a Syrian formula which includes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the condition that it will end with him stepping down, signalling a major shift in Ankara’s policy towards Syria.
The source told the newspaper’s columnist Murat Yetkin that the decision was made together with a group of nine countries, including the US, during the United Nations General Assembly sessions in late September. The formula was forwarded to Russia by the Americans but no confirmation has been received from the Russians yet, according to the source.
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