Er­do­gan threat­ens to re­open bor­ders

Ankara an­gered by EU freeze

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan threat­ened yes­ter­day to open Tur­key’s bor­ders to al­low mi­grants to reach the EU, in a move that would tear up a land­mark deal that has re­duced the flow. Er­do­gan’s com­ments, some of his tough­est in re­cent times against the Euro­pean Union, prompted an im­me­di­ate warn­ing from Ger­many which helped bro­ker the deal that such “threats” were un­help­ful. The threat came a day af­ter the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment an­gered Ankara by back­ing a freeze in EU ac­ces­sion talks, al­ready hit by alarm over its crack­down in the wake of the July 15 failed coup.

“Lis­ten to me. If you go any fur­ther, then the fron­tiers will be opened, bear that in mind,” Er­do­gan told the EU dur­ing a speech in Is­tan­bul. He said Brus­sels had cried out for help in 2015 as tens of thou­sands of mi­grants massed at Tur­key’s border cross­ing with EU mem­ber Bul­garia. “You be­gan to ask us ‘what will we do if Tur­key opens its bor­ders’?” he asked.

‘Prom­ises Un­ful­filled’

On March 18, Ankara and Brus­sels forged a deal for Tur­key to halt the flow of mi­grants to Europe - an ac­cord that has largely been suc­cess­ful in re­duc­ing num­bers cross­ing the Aegean Sea be­tween Tur­key and Greece. Hun­dreds of mi­grants have drowned in the Aegean en route from Tur­key to EU mem­ber Greece on un­sea­wor­thy boats. They in­cluded three-yearold Syr­ian Ay­lan Kurdi, with the im­ages of his life­less body washed up on a Turk­ish beach spurring the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity into ac­tion.

Tur­key agreed to step up mar­itime and land border con­trols in ex­change for in­cen­tives on its long-stalled mem­ber­ship bid, in­clud­ing visa-free travel for its citizens and an ac­cel­er­a­tion of ac­ces­sion talks. How­ever with an Oc­to­ber tar­get pass­ing, no ap­par­ent progress on the visa is­sue and the ac­ces­sion talks stalled, Ankara has ac­cused Brus­sels of fail­ing to keep its side of the bar­gain.

In re­sponse to Er­do­gan’s re­marks, Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s spokes­woman Ul­rike Dem­mer said the deal was in the in­ter­est “of all par­ties” and that “threats on ei­ther side are not help­ful”. “Where there are dif­fi­cul­ties, we need to re­solve them,” she added. Er­do­gan said while Tur­key it­self was look­ing af­ter three mil­lion refugees mainly 2.7 mil­lion Syr­i­ans from the civil war, but also Iraqis - but “you (the EU) did not ful­fill your prom­ises”. “You never acted hon­or­ably, you did not act right,” he told the bloc.

He has also ac­cused Brus­sels of fail­ing to ful­fill a prom­ise to de­liver some six bil­lion eu­ros ($6.3 bil­lion) in aid for refugees. The EU says the money is to be trans­ferred grad­u­ally for in­di­vid­ual projects and not in a sin­gle pay­ment. On Thurs­day, two peo­ple died and two oth­ers were badly burnt when a fire broke out on the Greek is­land of Les­bos, where many mi­grants who crossed from Tur­key are housed. The vote by the EU Par­lia­ment re­flected spi­ralling ten­sions be­tween Ankara and the bloc af­ter Brus­sels re­peat­edly ex­pressed alarm over the mag­ni­tude of Tur­key’s crack­down af­ter the coup. — AFP

IS­TAN­BUL: Tur­key’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan ad­dresses a meet­ing on “Women and Jus­tice” yes­ter­day. — AP

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