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Turkey’s Erdogan continues to withstand EU pressure to close border

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives before a meeting with European Union (EU) officials at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on March 9, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to resist pressure from the European Union (EU) states to stop the flow of refugees through his country’s borders with Greece, but has announced plans for the convention of a summit with European leaders next week to seek a solution to the crisis.

“We are not thinking of closing these gates. Our proposal to Greece is to open the gates. These people won’t stay in Greece. Let them cross from Greece into other European countries,” Erdogan told reporters on his plane back to Turkey on Tuesday after discussing the refugee crisis in Brussels with top EU officials.

Calling for a “just, humane sharing” of the refugee burden, the Turkish president said he would hold a summit on the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and possibly British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Istanbul on March 17.

Erdogan also said he had stressed during talks in Brussels the need to update both the 2016 refugee deal between Ankara and the EU and to revive Turkey’s stalled EU accession process.

“The EU leaders accepted that Turkey had fulfilled its responsibilities under the March 18 (2016) agreement and that the EU had acted slowly,” he said.

Erdogan left meetings with EU and NATO leaders in Brussels late on Monday without issuing a joint statement or appearing at a joint press conference, as had been planned.

Erdogan made the trip to Brussels amid heightened tensions between Ankara and the EU over Turkey’s highly controversial decision last month to relax curbs on the migrants’ movement through its borders.

Tens of thousands of refugees have been trying to cross into Europe via Turkey since Ankara late last month decided to loosen controls on refugees seeking to reach Europe via its territory, violating the 2016 deal with the EU. That has caused tensions on the Turkey’s border with Greece, where Greek forces have been clashing with the refugees to block them.

Turkey’s decision regarding its border controls sparked fears of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, when over one million refugees arrived in the EU, most of them fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa, via Turkish territory.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had also said in an interview published earlier on Tuesday that the 2016 deal needed updating.

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