Newspaper article International New York Times

Merkel Asks Turkey to Limit Influx ; German Leader Links E.U. Membership to Help in Easing Migrant Crisis

Newspaper article International New York Times

Merkel Asks Turkey to Limit Influx ; German Leader Links E.U. Membership to Help in Easing Migrant Crisis

Article excerpt

Angela Merkel's policy shift underscored the degree of importance European leaders placed on Turkey's cooperation in trying to contain the refugee crisis.

Desperately seeking help to contain Europe's migrant crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Sunday explicitly linked accelerating Turkey's bid to join the European Union with Turkish cooperation in clamping down on the flow of refugees from Turkey to Europe.

Ms. Merkel, who has long been opposed to Turkey's joining the union, nevertheless said she would support speeding the process. Her change of policy underscored the degree of importance European leaders placed on Turkey's cooperation in trying to contain what has become the largest flow of refugees since World War II as an increasing number of people flee violence and deprivation in the Middle East and Africa.

"No country can shoulder the refugee burden alone," Ms. Merkel said during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey in Istanbul on Sunday. "The job has to be shared."

A deal in principle between Europe and Turkey has been discussed for weeks, and it includes nearly three billion euros, or about $3.4 billion, in aid to help Turkey deal with nearly 2.2 million refugees, mostly from Syria, now in Turkey. In the news conference, Ms. Merkel and Mr. Davutoglu said that no agreement had been completed and that the details were still being worked out.

Mr. Davutoglu continued to press for a "safe zone" in northern Syria, a longstanding Turkish priority that has largely been met by silence from other countries, as it would require a substantial military operation.

"Our priority is to prevent illegal immigration and reduce the number of people crossing our borders," he said on Sunday. "In that respect, we have had very fruitful discussions with the E.U."

Mr. Davutoglu said he hoped that Turkish prime ministers could once again attend European Union summit meetings, noting that the current president, Recep Tayyip Erodgan, went to such a gathering in 2004 as prime minister but then such visits stopped.

"We hope Turkey will take a place in the E.U. family photo," he said.

In the early evening, Ms. Merkel met with Mr. Erdogan, Turkey's pre-eminent decision maker, and they also discussed the migrant crisis as well as the European Union accession process and counterterrorism. In a statement, Mr. Erdogan said he had asked Ms. Merkel for support to accelerate Turkey's efforts to obtain union membership.

From the start of the Syrian civil war, in 2011, Turkey has had an open-door policy for refugees and has spent billions of dollars caring for them. Now that Europe has been drawn into the crisis, Turkish leaders have been quick to note that Turkey has been, as Mr. Davutoglu put it on Sunday, "left alone in recent years."

In the negotiations, Turkey has made visa-free travel to Europe for its citizens a top priority, and Ms. …

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