“NATO is in a critical period in which it should clearly show the alliance’s solidarity [with Turkey],” President Erdogan told reporters during a press conference alongside NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Belgium, March 9, 2020.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Belgium, March 9, 2020. (Reuters)

Turkey’s president on Monday called on NATO members to show their alliance with Turkey at this critical time.

“NATO is in a critical period in which it should clearly show the alliance’s solidarity [with Turkey],” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters during a press conference alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Our allies should collaborate with Turkey without discrimination and with no political preconditions, he added.

Turkey has fought Syrian-based threats and Daesh for nearly a decade now and is the only NATO member state to see soldiers killed, said Erdogan.

No European country has the luxury of being unconcerned about the conflicts and human drama in Syria, he added.

Stoltenberg: Turkey ‘important’ ally

“No other ally has suffered more terror attacks than Turkey. No other ally hosts more refugees than Turkey,” said NATO chief Stoltenberg, praising Turkey’s efforts for the region’s security.

He also called Turkey an “important” ally which has “contributed to our shared security in many ways.”

The military alliance has invested heavily in missile systems and military bases in Turkey in years past, and it keeps on contributing to air and naval missions in Turkey, he said.

“Allies are prepared to continue to support Turkey and explore what more to do,” he said, reaffirming the bloc’s commitment to partnership.

Stoltenberg also expressed his concerns over the security situation in Syria and the resulting migrant crisis.

“The Assad regime and Russia caused untold civilian suffering,” he said, adding that he hopes the ceasefire in Idlib, northwestern Syria reached last week by Turkey and Russia will grow into a standing peace.

The secretary-general called migration “a common challenge” and hailed the dialogue between Turkey and the EU to find a long-term solution for the crisis.

Erdogan and Stoltenberg's meeting lasted around one hour at the Permanent Delegation of Turkey to the European Union, amid
Erdogan’s one-day working visit to Brussels at the invitation of European Council President Charles Michel.

“Bilateral relations will be addressed thoroughly and steps to strengthen cooperation will be discussed during the meeting, which will also be attended by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen,” said a statement by the Turkish Presidency.

The meeting will address “the latest developments in Syria, particularly Idlib, and the refugee issue as well as other regional and global matters,” it added.

Last month Turkey announced it would no longer stop asylum seekers from reaching Europe, complaining that the European Union had failed to keep its pledges under a 2016 deal on migrant, and warning of a refugee wave coming from Idlib.

Turkey currently hosts over 3.7 million Syrians, making it the world's top refugee-hosting country.

Refugees in no man's land between Greece and Turkey near Edirne show marks on their backs which they report sustaining in beatings by Greek border officials. March 5, 2020.
Refugees in no man's land between Greece and Turkey near Edirne show marks on their backs which they report sustaining in beatings by Greek border officials. March 5, 2020. (Belal Khaled / TRT ARABI)

EU, Turkish leaders revisit 2016 deal on migrants

The EU and Turkey agreed to set up two working groups to clarify continued implementation of the 2016 refugee deal, European Council President Charles Michel announced on Monday after a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Brussels.

Michel's remarks came in a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after talks with Erdogan on the 2016 EU-Turkey deal and the situation in Syria.

The parties agreed to task EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu with continuing the discussions in order to clarify the position of both sides on implementation of the 2016 deal, Michel explained to journalists after the meeting.

He added that both parties are committed to maintaining a high-level political process.

Once the top diplomats draw a conclusion, EU heads of states and governments will be given a chance to discuss the result with the Turkish president, he said.

“Migrants, Greece, and Turkey as well need support,” said von der Leyen.

She said the partners were able to communicate openly despite their disagreements, adding: “This is a precondition to solve the crisis at the Greek-Turkish border.”

“Use of excessive force is completely unacceptable. Any actions of the authorities need to be proportionate,” she said when asked about Greek border guards using tear gas and rubber bullets on asylum seekers at the Greek-Turkish border.

Violence at border

Greece has deployed riot police and border guards to repel people trying to enter the country and the Greek border area has since seen violent confrontations between them and the migrants and refugees.

Many migrants have accused Greek police of mistreatment with some being pushed back from the border without their clothes and bearing torture marks.

Turkey says at least two migrants were killed in violence along the border. Greece has denied the accusations.

EU foreign ministers have claimed that Turkey is using the migrants' desperation "for political purposes." 

EU countries are still dealing with the political fallout from a wave of mass migration five years ago.

Thousands of migrants have slept in terrible conditions in makeshift camps near the Greek border since the Turkish government said they were free to go, waiting for the opportunity to enter Greece.

Tens of thousands of migrants were already in Greece before Turkey announced its borders open in the last days of February. 

Many are housed in massively overcrowded camps on Greek islands, where they first arrive from the Turkish coast. Part of the 2016 EU-Turkey deal stipulates new arrivals must remain on the islands pending deportation unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

Greece said it would build more of such centres on the islands but residents of islands such as Lesvos rioted and held strikes against the plan, demanding they be constructed on the mainland.

Germany could host children

Germany's coalition government said after an overnight meeting early Monday that the country was willing to "support Greece regarding the difficult humanitarian situation of about 1,000 to 1,500 children on the Greek islands."

The government said Germany could host children in dire need of medical treatment or those who are unattended minors and younger than 14, especially girls. It didn't say exactly how many children Germany would take but said an agreement regarding children would be negotiated by a European "coalition of the willing" in coming days.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be in Berlin on Monday and Tuesday for talks.

“Europe's message to Turkey is clear: We stand by a fair burden-sharing, but we do not accept that people, who are already in a desperate situation, are being abused as bargaining chips on top of this," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview published on Monday by newspaper group Funke Mediengruppe.

“A negotiation strategy on the backs of the weakest will not lead to the desired results. We will never refuse talks when there are financial gaps when it comes to life-saving humanitarian care of refugees ... But that requires that Turkey keeps up its part of the agreements.” he said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies