Merkel calls Davutoğlu ahead of EU summit to discuss Syria, illegal migration

Merkel calls Davutoğlu ahead of EU summit to discuss Syria, illegal migration

Merkel calls Davutoğlu ahead of EU summit to discuss Syria, illegal migration

AFP photo

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu spoke Feb. 28 to discuss the current state of cooperation between Berlin and Ankara, as well as Brussels and Ankara, amid increasing rancor from European countries trying to cope with an influx of refugees.

During a telephone conversation late on Feb. 28, the two leaders expressed pleasure over ongoing cooperation against illegal migration among Turkey, Germany and the EU authorities, sources from the Turkish Prime Minister’s Office told state-run Anadolu Agency.

The telephone conversation was initiated by Merkel, said the same sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Davutoğlu and Merkel agreed to strengthen their ongoing cooperation, while both underlined the importance of activities planned by a NATO naval mission in the Aegean Sea to help fight people-trafficking, the sources said. 

An upcoming special summit of EU leaders and Turkey on the migration crisis scheduled for March 7 will also offer an opportunity to deal with the progress in relations with full membership candidate Turkey and the EU, the two leaders stated, according to the sources.

Turkey and the EU signed a deal in November 2015 under which Ankara agreed to curb the number of refugees crossing to Greece in return for 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid and the acceleration of its EU membership bid.

Germany has been insistently pushing the Turkey plan, but many other EU states are increasingly frustrated and skeptical. EU leaders are now pinning their hopes on talks with Turkey on March 7 and their own migration summit on March 18-19. 

Seven European states have already reinstituted border controls within the creaking Schengen passport-free zone, while more said they would unilaterally tighten border controls unless a deal with Turkey shows results before the two March summits.

“By March 7, we want a significant reduction in the number of refugees at the border between Turkey and Greece,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said last week. “Otherwise, there will have to be other joint, coordinated European measures.”

Meanwhile, Davutoğlu and Merkel also discussed the Syrian conflict, the sources in Ankara said. Adherence to a cease-fire has vital importance for the security of Syrian civilians, Davutoğlu told Merkel, the sources said.

He also said “terrorist” groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia force, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), should not be permitted to exploit the situation, he told the German chancellor, the sources added.