Turkey has offered to sign readmission agreements with 14 "source" countries, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday, a move which would enable it to take back refugees more quickly that have been rejected by the European Union (EU).
"We offered 14 countries that have been the source of irregular migration to sign readmission agreements," the spokesman Tanju Bilgic told reporters at a media briefing in Ankara.
"The number of migrants going to Greece from Turkey have significantly decreased as of February 2016. Our coast guard units and security forces are working hard to stop the irregular flow of migrants."
The EU agreed to a 3 billion euros ($3.3 bln) aid deal with Turkey to help it shelter refugees mainly from the Syrian civil war, in return for preventing them from travelling to Europe.
EU leaders want to see results before key talks with Turkey on March 7 and their own refugee summit on March 18-19.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in mid-February that she will keep pressing for implementation of the deal between the EU and Turkey on refugees, indicating that the alternative of closing borders to limit the flow of refugees to Europe would have dire consequences for the 28-member bloc.
Turkey is a transit point for refugees aiming to reach European countries from Syria and Iraq because of its geography bridging the Middle East and Europe.
Syrian refugees escaping the violence in their country fled Syria in large numbers following the escalation of the Syrian Civil War in 2012.
One of their most preferred destinations was neighbouring Turkey, which hosts the most Syrian refugees in the world according to registration records of the United Nations.
Turkey has spent nearly $10 billion of its own resources on the refugees whose number in the country has been climbing to 2.7 million people.
During the civil war, nearly 8 million people have been displaced internally while at least 5 million have fled the country to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.
Turkey hits only DAESH targets
Turkey has hit only DAESH targets in Syria since the start of a ceasefire this weekend, Bilgic stated during Wednesday’s press briefing, adding the Syrian regime forces and Russia have been carrying out bombardments since the cessation of hostilities began on Feb. 27.
"Turkey has not hit any other targets in Syria other than those of DAESH since the ceasefire went into effect. On February 28, 41 round of shelling was carried out against six targets and this has been already reported by media," he said.
The United Nations hopes the cessation of hostilities agreement, which is less binding than a formal ceasefire and was not directly signed by the Syrian warring sides, can precede a more formal ceasefire.
Bilgic also told reporters at the briefing that Russian claims of weapons being sent to Syria hidden in aid convoys from Turkey were not to be taken seriously and were designed to cover up for Russian war crimes.
He also rejected that the Turkish military has struck any YPG positions in northern Syria as of Feb. 27.
Since Feb. 12, Turkey has been intermittently shelling YPG targets in northern Syria near its border, saying that it has been retaliating against artillery fire from YPG forces across the border.