Ankara urges EU to keep promises under 2016 deal

Ankara urges EU to keep promises under 2016 deal

Ankara urges EU to keep promises under 2016 deal

Migrants walk amidst smoke from a burning grass towards Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing with Greece's Kastanies, near Edirne, Turkey, on March 6, 2020. (REUTERS Photo)

The EU should keep its promises and not make charges against Turkey, the Foreign Ministry said early on March 7 in response to a statement by an EU agency.

"Instead of accusing Turkey, the EU should first keep its promises, apply itself to the March 18 [2016 EU-Turkey refugee] Agreement as a whole," the ministry said.

It was referring to a March 6 statement from an extraordinary meeting of EU Foreign Affairs Council that focused on the Idlib, Syria crisis and asylum seekers at the Turkey-Greece border.

Ankara has repeatedly said that Europe has failed to keep its promises under the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deal to help migrants and stem further migrant waves.

"It clearly shows that the European Union still cannot grasp the extraordinary burden and efforts that our country faces in migration and security issues," the statement read.

It also underlined that Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world with the best intentions. "To accuse a country of using immigration for a political purpose is a new indicator of the hypocritical approach we have been exposed to for years” and the EU essentially makes the issue "political material.”

"It is also exemplary for the EU to back up Greece, which violates international law and human rights and deems proper all kinds of torture to innocent people who come to its borders, contradicting its principles and values," it said.

The ministry said the EU Foreign Affairs Council refuses to call people who demand international protection and come by their free will to the borders of other safe countries – the EU countries – as asylum seekers, and uses the term "migrant" for these individuals.

"It is not possible to ignore the 1951 Geneva Convention and EU legislation with a play on words," it said and stressed EU countries, including Greece, are obliged to receive applications from asylum seekers by respecting international obligations.

The statement added that “with the support from the EU, Greece ignored the international law and EU laws, by announcing it suspending asylum applications.”

"With its latest statement, the EU also tolerates the violation of international law and EU law, putting EU values aside," it said.

It emphasized that the illegal actions of Greece against asylum seekers have also been announced by many international organizations and non-governmental organizations, including the UN and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Turkish Foreign Ministry called on the EU and the EU Institutions to comply with the EU Foundation Agreement and EU law, respecting European common values.

Ankara recently announced that it would no longer try to stop asylum seekers from reaching Europe.

Thousands of asylum seekers have since flocked to Turkey’s Edirne province – which borders Greece and Bulgaria – to make their way to Europe.

The Greek reaction to asylum seekers has been harsh, with many battered, attacked, tear-gassed and several killed by Greek forces.

Early on March 7, Turkey’s Communications Director slammed the "ill treatment of refugees" by Greece.

In a statement to the CNN International network, Fahrettin Altun responded to claims by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis that Ankara is "assisting" thousands of migrants on its border get into Europe.

"We categorically reject Prime Minister Mitsotakis' allegations and we are deeply concerned about the ill treatment of, and the use of lethal force against, refugees by this country's law enforcement and border security agents," Altun said.

He said Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country and has been a "bulwark against irregular migration from Syria and elsewhere."

He reiterated that Ankara has repeatedly complained that Europe has failed to keep its promises under a 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deal to help migrants and stem further migrant waves

"The European Union has failed to keep its promises, including financial aid and voluntary humanitarian admission, under the 2016 agreement. As a result, Turkey had to divert its resources away from stopping the refugee flow to Europe and instead prepare for a potential influx from Idlib. Instead of playing the blame game, we urge Greece and the rest of the international community to address the root cause of irregular migration, namely the ongoing civil war in Syria."

Turkey, which already hosts nearly 4 million Syrian migrants, more than any other country in the world, says it cannot absorb another refugee wave.