Erdogan Wants Istanbul Summit to Reboot Refugee Deal With EU

Ian Wishart and Firat Kozok

(Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he expects to host the leaders of Germany and France next week for talks on how to reboot a deal that stemmed the flow of migrants to the European Union, after a meeting in Brussels ended in deadlock.

After the breakdown in discussions, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused European Union nations of not sticking by earlier promises to provide funds to help look after millions of migrants on Turkish soil and allow visa-free travel to the EU for Turks.

“If the EU delivers on its promises made to us, then we will of course respond in kind,” Erdogan said late Monday as he returned to Turkey. “We’ve been asking for a fair share of the burden. Unfortunately, they are not lifting visas for a country like Turkey but doing that for Latin American countries, the Balkans and Ukraine.”

Tensions between the sides flared as fierce fighting in northwestern Syria killed Turkish soldiers and threatened to send a new wave of refugees over the country’s southern frontier. Erdogan’s government publicly told millions of migrants and asylum seekers on its soil that it won’t stand in the way if they want to head for Europe. That threatened a repeat of the mass movements in 2015 that helped fuel populism and anti-EU sentiment across the bloc.

Istanbul Summit

Neither side seemed happy with the result of a near two-hour meeting on Monday. Erdogan left without speaking to the media and senior EU officials warned there was a lot still to discuss, as they demanded Turkey continue to implement their 2016 migrant deal.

Erdogan said the further talks on March 17 in Istanbul could also be attended by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

European Council President Charles Michel said Turkey and the EU have “different opinions on different things and that is why it is important to have a frank and open dialog.” Officials from both sides will now work “to be certain we are on the same page,” he said.

Cavusoglu though issued a veiled ultimatum, telling state-run Anadolu news agency that the “time is up for stalling Turkey.” He said the EU should try and find a solution that can be discussed by country leaders when they meet on March 26, adding that Turkey also expects the bloc to help repatriate Syrian refugees and update customs relations with Turkey.

As thousands flocked toward the Greek border last week clashes erupted with security forces seeking to hold them back and competing narratives faced off on social media. Greece refused a Turkish demand that it open its border gates.

In 2016, the EU struck a financial arrangement with Turkey that prevented displaced Syrians from entering the EU via Greece. It helped stop Europe’s biggest refugee influx since World War II.

The EU pledged 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) to help alleviate Turkey’s fiscal burden from hosting millions of Syrians.

Turkey has so far received less than 3 billion euros, Cavusoglu said Tuesday, adding the government wants the EU to uphold all its promises.

“We may start a new process with the EU,” Erdogan told Turkish media. “We’ve taken many steps and we will continue to do so. It would be possible to record progress if the EU shows the same determination and political vision.”

(Upates with comments from Turkish President Erdogan.)

--With assistance from Selcan Hacaoglu.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net;Firat Kozok in Ankara at fkozok@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams, Onur Ant

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