France’s top diplomat accused Ankara of “blackmail” after Turkey decided to open its borders to Europe. Talks between top EU leaders and President Erodgan have so far failed to yield a compromise.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will not renogiate a refugee deal with Europe until the bloc agrees to support its military efforts in Syria, a move French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called blackmail.
“This migratory pressure is organized,” Le Drian said in Paris. “It is organized by President Erdogan’s regime as a form of blackmail against the European Union.”
In Ankara, Borrell said that during talks the EU had offered humanitarian aid worth 60 million euros for the most vulnerable groups of people in northwestern Syria, as well as additional assistance to Turkey in addressing its own specific “challenges stemming from the situation in Syria.”
At a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels, the member states said that Turkey was exploiting refugees to get its way politically.
A joint statement said that bloc “strongly rejects” the “use” of migrants by Ankara, saying that the “situation at the EU’s external borders is not acceptable.”
“Illegal crossings will not be tolerated. In this regard, the EU and its Member States will take all necessary measures, in accordance with EU and international law…Migrants should not be encouraged to endanger their lives by attempting illegal crossings by land or sea.”
The interior ministers called on Turkey to “relay this message and counter the dissemination of false information.”
Since Turkey’s decision, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated both at the land border of Greece and Turkey and on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Turkey makes good on long-standing threat
Borrell warned that Erdogan’s decision to open its borders to Europe would deeply undermine trust, urging the Turkish president to return to his obligations from the 2016 agreement between Brussels and Ankara that saw Turkey vow to stop migrants from crossing to Greece in exchange for aid money and other concessions.
“Unilateral actions by Turkey are an obstacle to developing relations of trust, which are needed today more than ever,” Borrell wrote on Twitter.
Earlier on Wednesday, Turkey accused Greek forces of having shot dead a refugee when they fired tear gas in an effort to repulse a group trying to cross the border. The Greek government responded by saying Turkey was spreading “fake news.” It was the second such exchange of the week between the two governments.
On February 27th, Erdogan announced that his government would no longer actively prevent the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it hosts from entering Europe, after 33 Turkish troops were killed during airstrikes in Idlib carried out by the Syrian regime. Turkish forces have been fighting the Russian-backed Syrian army, as well as Kurdish combatants in the area, off and on since 2016.
Since then, the Turkish government had repeatedly threatened to “open the gates” to Europe during several disputes with the bloc.