Ankara / AFP
Turkey’s foreign minister on Wednesday rejected the idea Ankara was “begging” the EU for money, after it dramatically doubled its demand for funding during crunch talks on Europe’s migrant crisis.
The European Union and Turkey clinched a deal in November for three billion euros ($3.3 billion) in funds for refugees in return for Ankara’s cooperation in tackling the refugee crisis, unprecedented in the continent’s history since World War II.
But at talks in Brussels on Monday, Turkey stunned EU leaders by asking for an extra three billion euros in aid, along with visa-free travel to the bloc for Turkish citizens.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday defended the decision to ask for more money.
“We see the unfair accusations targeting Turkey… It’s as if this money is given to Turkey. It is as if Turkey is begging for money,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara, quoted by local media.
Turkey is hosting some 2.7 million Syrians fleeing the five-year war in their homeland, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised the EU for the four-month delay in disbursing the funds.
Under Monday’s tentative dealâ€”which has to be confirmed by another EU summit next weekâ€”Turkey will take back all illegal migrants landing in Greece.
Ankara also proposed an arrangement under which the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes from Greece, in a bid to reduce the incentive for people to board boats for Europe.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that in taking the talks by surprise, Turkey had helped them clear a difficult impasse.
“There was an opinion that it would be a problematic summit,” Davutoglu told Turkish journalists on his flight back from Brussels, in comments published in the Hurriyet newspaper.
“An unexpected move in such circumstances could push the other side to decisions which it cannot take in normal situations. They were not expecting such a move.”
Cavusoglu said Wednesday the idea was to stop the irregular flow of migrants, after more than a million reached Europe since the start of 2015.
“This is a proposal which can be accepted by both sides,” he said, adding that the EU appeared to agree to “many elements.”
“Our cooperation with the EU is important. Our main goal is to stop irregular migration,” he added.