US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — Turkey’s decision to stop retaining refugees on its territory is unacceptable and the European Union will reject any such political pressure, the 27 EU foreign ministers in Zagreb said on Friday.
“The EU reaffirms its deep concern over the situation on the Greek-Turkish border and strongly rejects the use by Turkey of this migratory pressure for political purposes,” they said in a statement.
“The situation at the EU’s external border is not acceptable”, continue the ministers who add, to Ankara: “Migrants should not be encouraged to try to enter illegally by land or by sea.”
As ministers met in Zagreb, new tensions erupted Friday morning, as in previous days, on the border between Greece and Turkey where tear gas was fired from the Turkish side towards Greek border guards mobilized to repel migrants.
The land border between the two countries has turned into a crisis since Turkey announced on February 28 that it will no longer retain Syrian refugees on its territory, disengaging from an agreement concluded in 2016 with the European Union.
Several thousand migrants have since attempted to cross to Greece.
Greek forces used a water cannon on Friday morning to repel a crowd gathering at the border, according to a Reuters reporter. The intervention was followed by tear gas from the Turkish side.
A Greek government official said the Turkish police was aimed at helping the migrants to cross the border, adding that the operations were “coordinated by drones”.
Greece, which believes that these border tensions constitute a threat to its national security, and the European Union, which fears to relive the migration crisis of 2015, accuse Turkey of having deliberately favored this new influx of refugees to put pressure on Brussels.
Ankara, they say, would seek more financial means to support migrants or diplomatic support for its geopolitical aims in the Syrian conflict.
Upon arrival in Zagreb, Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, said it was unacceptable to use them as a “bargaining chip”.
“There is a big burden on Turkey and we have to understand it,” he said. “But at the same time, we cannot allow migrants to be used as leverage.”
Turkey, which already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, explains that it will not be able to take care of the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of the Syrian region of Idlib who are fleeing the offensive launched since the end last year by Syrian government forces with support from Russia.
Russia and Turkey agreed on a ceasefire on Thursday in the Syrian province of Idlib.
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Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.