Turkey says talks with EU, Germany on migrants 'productive'

ISTANBUL, Ergin Hava and Helen Maguire (dpa)- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described a meeting with top German and EU officials as "productive" and "frank" as the bloc attempts to soothe recent tensions over a sharp increase in migrant arrivals, mainly Syrians, from Turkey to Greece.
"We saw that they are intent on a healthier cooperation with Turkey on this issue," Cavusoglu said of his meeting with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in the Turkish capital on Friday.

"Turkey is hosting a large number of refugees and has shown a lot of solidarity and generosity over the past years," European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud later said in Brussels, adding that the country remains a "key partner" on migration issues.
Under a 2016 deal, the European Union pledged up to 6 billion euros (6.59 billion dollars) to support refugees in Turkey. Of this, 5.8 billion euros had been allocated and 2.57 billion euros had been disbursed by the end of September.
With the deal, Ankara agreed to prevent migrants from attempting to reach the bloc.
Greece last month warned about the growing pace of migrant arrivals from Turkey to Greece, citing overcrowded Greek islands.
Many migrants attempt to use a route from Turkey's Aegean shores to the Greek islands as a gateway into Europe.
Cavusoglu charged there was only a "small increase" in migrant arrivals in Greece, dismissing criticism of Turkey on this issue as "baseless."
Turkey says it hosts the world's largest refugee population at more than 4 million people, of whom 3.6 million are from war-torn Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously argued that the EU is not sending enough support to Turkey and threatened to "open the gates" for migrants to leave for Europe.
“Millions of people would have arrived in Europe had it not been for our country’s efforts,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said Friday following his meeting with Seehofer and Avramopoulos.
Ankara expects the EU to “take on responsibility” to tackle “the burden of irregular migrants,” Oktay said in remarks carried by state news agency Anadolu.
Ankara raised the issue of further needs during this week's meetings, Bertaud said in Brussels, adding that the EU is working to allocate the remainder of its current funding pledge by the end of the year. This money will support Turkey until 2025, she added.
"It is however clear that the [EU's refugee funding] facility is responding to essential needs and that these needs will not disappear in the future. And so this is something that will have to continue to be looked at," she added.
On Thursday, Seehofer and Avramopoulos expressed support for Turkey in tackling its migration burden at a meeting with Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.
Turkey is also seeking EU support regarding the creation of a so-called safe zone in north-eastern Syria, Cavusoglu said, adding he briefed the visiting delegates on details of the plan and what is needed.
Erdogan has recently said as many as 2 million Syrian refugees would be relocated to a planned 30-kilometre-deep zone that stretches from the east of Euphrates River to the border with Iraq.
Seehofer is expected to leave for Greece later on Friday. He said on Thursday that he would address Ankara's concerns in Brussels in his talks with the incoming head of the commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

Friday, October 4th 2019
Ergin Hava and Helen Maguire (dpa)

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