Germany should give refugee aid to Turkey if EU deal fails: vice chancellor

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany should unilaterally provide aid to Turkey for refugees to help slow the flow across the Aegean Sea to Greece if the EU fails to reach a common deal with Ankara on the issue, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday. Gabriel's comments highlight frustrations in Berlin with the EU's discordant response to the refugee crisis, which has already seen hundreds of thousands pour into Germany this year, straining both local authorities and the coalition government. "If the Europeans can only do it in a limited way, I consider it sensible for Germany to make an advance or pay on its own," Gabriel told a gathering of his Social Democrats, junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition. Germany, which is expecting up to one million refugees this year, is seeking to slow the number of arrivals and wants EU neighbors to share the burden. Without financial help Turkey would be unable to improve conditions for the about two million Syrian refugees within its borders, Gabriel said. Merkel, who discussed the issue with Turkish leaders during a visit to Ankara last month, wants to seal a European deal with Turkey on aid and closer ties in return for help to discourage refugees from coming to Europe. The EU last month offered Turkey an "action plan," including "re-energized" talks on joining the bloc, as well as aid and the prospect of easier travel visas, in return for its help in stemming the migrant flow. Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu said last month that the EU plan had not taken final shape and it was wrong to give the impression that Turkey wanted a certain amount of funds to keep refugees in Turkey. Human rights organizations have criticized the Turkish government's treatment of refugees. (Reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)