‘Open the gates’ to migrants, Erdogan tells Greece before EU talks

09.03.2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Greece to "open the gates" for migrants at Turkey's border as he prepared to hold talks with EU leaders in Brussels on Monday.

Amid tensions at the Turkey-Greece land border – where thousands of migrants have massed after Turkish authorities announced they would no longer prevent them from crossing into the EU – Erdogan said he would use Monday’s meeting to discuss “different outcomes” with Brussels.

In a televised address to the nation Sunday, Erdogan urged Greece to open its border after clashes in recent days between migrants and Greek police.

"Hey Greece! I appeal to you... open the gates as well and be free of this burden," he said, adding: "Let them go to other European countries."

Erdogan will meet European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels at 6pm local time on Monday.

Turkey has repeatedly railed against what it describes as unfair burden-sharing, since around four million mostly Syrian refugees live in Turkey.

In 2016, Turkey and the EU agreed to a deal whereby Brussels would provide billions of euros in aid in exchange for Turkish authorities curbing the flow of migrants into the bloc, but Ankara has repeatedly accused the EU of not fulfilling promises made.

Erdogan's top press aide Fahrettin Altun has said one of the unmet conditions was that the EU would take in refugees from Turkey.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Michel met Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday as Turkey demanded greater support over the conflict and migrants.

After the talks, Borrell promised an additional €170 million in aid for vulnerable groups in Syria.

As the standoff between Turkey and Greece intensified, a fire broke out at a refugee centre on the Greek island of Lesbos, Greece's firefighting service said Sunday, causing considerable damage to a warehouse but no injuries.

It was the second fire at an installation built for migrants, after a reception centre was burned down by unknown perpetrators last week. The warehouse, which contained furniture and electrical appliances, was completely destroyed, according to Greek firefighters.

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. On Saturday, youths threw rocks at Greek police and tried to break down a border fence.

Meanwhile, Cyprus announced it will send security forces to the Greek-Turkish land border to help protect it. Greek government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios said in a statement that the decision to send the force was announced by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a telephone conversation the two had Sunday morning.

“The president's proposal was gratefully accepted by Greece's Prime Minister and, therefore, a force from Cyprus's security forces will travel to Greece immediately to defend and guard Greece's, and Europe's, borders,” the Cyprus government's statement said.

The Greek government released a video purporting to show a Turkish armoured vehicle trying to pull down part of the border fence with a rope. It claimed the vehicle was partly purchased with EU border funds. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the video. There was no immediate comment from Turkish officials.

Anastasiades has accused Turkey of “using refugees to raise money” after around 100 African nationals crossed the border from the northern Turkish-occupied part of the island into Cyprus, which has the EU’s highest number of refugees per capita.    (FRANCE 24/AFP/AP/REUTERS)

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