Turkey, Germany intensify cooperation, as Berlin presses Ankara to take back migrants

Turkey, Germany intensify cooperation, as Berlin presses Ankara to take back migrants

Turkey, Germany intensify cooperation, as Berlin presses Ankara to take back migrants

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Turkey and Germany have signed joint declarations of intention concerning cooperation on migration, border police, human smuggling and the fight against terrorism, while Berlin has also pressed Turkey to take back migrants trying to cross the Aegean Sea.

Three separate declarations were signed by German Ambassador to Turkey Martin Erdmann and Turkish Interior Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Mehmet Tekinarslan on Feb. 23, the German Embassy in Ankara announced.

“These documents constitute the foundation of intensified cooperation between the Interior Ministry of Germany and the Interior Ministry of Turkey. More intense sharing is foreseen between related officials, especially in terms of the cooperation between experts on border management, illegal migration and the fight against terrorism,” the German Embassy in Ankara said in a statement.

Speaking at a signing ceremony for the declarations, Erdmann underlined the need to further develop bilateral cooperation between the security forces of Turkey and Germany to prevent illegal crossings in the Mediterranean and Aegean and fight against human smugglers more effectively.

Germany and other EU countries see diplomacy with Turkey, currently the main transit country for migrants trying to reach Europe, as key to stemming the flow of refugees. 

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin on Feb. 23, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said securing the Greek-Turkish maritime border was important “and that includes people being returned to Turkey, and not being received in Greece first.”

The approach will be pursued in the coming weeks, De Maiziere said, while adding that if the measures did not help reduce the influx, other “pre-eminently European” measures would have to be considered.

NATO to return migrants rescued from Aegean to Turkey 

Meanwhile, NATO's chief said the alliance could return any migrants it rescues in the Aegean Sea to Turkey if they set out from that country.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Feb. 23 that Turkey and its allies have agreed that "if the people were rescued by NATO, if they come from Turkey, we can return them to Turkey," according to The Associated Press.

He told EU lawmakers on Feb. 23 that NATO ships have already been doing monitoring work in the Aegean while mission details are sorted out.

NATO wants to help Greece, Turkey, and the EU border agency Frontex with surveillance in the sea, which thousands of migrants have been crossing daily. NATO vessels are obliged to help boats in distress, but rescue work is not their aim. Still, Stoltenberg insisted that NATO would not turn migrant boats back.