Turkey said on Tuesday a 2016 migration deal with the EU needs to be updated in light of the crisis in northern Syria, as tensions continued to flare on the Turkish-Greek border after Ankara said it would no longer to stop migrants trying to cross.
In an interview with state-owned Anadolu news agency, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that European Union visa liberalisation and an update of the country’s customs union with the bloc must be implemented to help solve the migrant issue.
Late on Monday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan left meetings in Brussels with EU and NATO leaders without issuing a joint statement nor appearing at a joint news conference, as had been planned.
Erdogan made the trip to Brussels as a dispute deepened over the fate of tens of thousands of migrants trying to enter EU-member Greece. Ankara decided last month to encourage the migration to extract more European support and funding in its military effort in Syria’s Idlib region.
Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian migrants and has stemmed migration to Europe under the 2016 deal in return for billions of euros in aid. But it has become frustrated with what it regards as too little European support over the war in Syria, where its troops faced off against Russian-backed government forces.
The pact also envisaged the EU taking in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from camps in Turkey, rewarding Turks with visa-free travel to the bloc, faster progress in EU membership talks and upgrading their customs union.