“Together, as Turkey and Germany, we will propose NATO’s engagement concerning all results of the refugee flow from Syria as an agenda item to NATO,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced on Feb. 8 in a joint press conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“We will especially exert joint efforts for the effective use of NATO’s observation and surveillance mechanisms on the border and in the Aegean,” Davutoğlu said, referring to a meeting of NATO defense ministers scheduled to take place in Brussels on Feb. 10-11.
The two leaders’ meeting in the Turkish capital came as around 30,000 Syrians waited at the Turkish border after fleeing a Russia-backed regime offensive on the northern region of Aleppo. Speaking in Ankara, Davutoğlu, whose country is hosting 2.7 million Syrian refugees, voiced Turkey’s readiness to take more refugees “if necessary.”
“Obviously, as always, we will provide for our Syrian brothers and accept them when necessary,” he said, while however, cautioning that “no one should assume that just because Turkey is taking in all the refugees that it should be expected to shoulder the refugee issue alone.”
For her part, Merkel said Germany is ready to fulfill its part in lending support to Turkey’s efforts within the framework of “a joined task which needs to be defined.”
Echoing Davutoğlu, Merkel said Turkey and Germany would ask NATO to help police the Turkish coast and stop traffickers from sending refugees on dangerous sea journeys.
“We will use the NATO defense ministers’ meeting [from Feb. 10] to talk about the situation in Syria as well as whether and to what extent NATO can help in monitoring the situation at sea and lend support to Frontex and Turkish Coast Guards,” she said.
Hectic calendar, no timeframe
In a Nov. 29, 2015, deal between Ankara and Brussels, the EU agreed to give Turkey 3 billion euros to keep Syrian refugees on its soil in return for an acceleration of the EU accession talks and speeded-up visa liberalization for Turks visiting Europe.
Last week, EU countries gave final approval to the 3 billion-euro payment to Turkey, while the European Commission, the EU executive, is set to publish on Feb. 10 a report on Turkey’s progress in implementing the migrant deal.
Davutoğlu said he would take part next week in a mini-summit of European countries willing to join a voluntary resettlement for Syrians. The meeting of so-called “like-minded” countries led by Germany and Austria will take place in Brussels before the European Council later this month.
Davutoğlu also said Turkey would inform Brussels next week on the initial projects it plans after receiving 3 billion euros in funds from the EU.
In response to questions, Merkel refrained from presenting a clear timeframe for delivery of the EU funds.
“We need a visible first project. It doesn’t help a child from Syria that is a refugee here, or a Turkish class that has to share its room with Syrian refugees to say we have pledged 3 billion. They want to see a school in the city and fast,” Merkel said.
“We need to work on this. We need to make sure there are not too many bureaucratic hurdles. Rather the refugees have to see the benefits quickly and without bureaucracy,” she said, while calling for fast action from Ankara to improve the situation for refugees in Turkey.
Aid agencies, visit to Greece
In addition to steps involving political dimension such as pushing for NATO’s involvement in curbing the refugee flow to Europe and accelerating further global action to ensure Russia’s compliance with a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at protecting civilians in war-torn Syria, Turkey and Germany will also take practical and technical steps.
Cooperation of the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) and Turkey’s disaster agency, the Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD), for refugees is one of those steps. Turkey will also intensify efforts against human smuggling which it is prepared to legally treat as a terror crime.
The chief of Turkey’s Directorate General of Migration Management will pay a visit to Greece on Feb. 11 to discuss the arrival of refugees from Turkey and their readmission from Greece to Turkey.