Middle East

Erdogan discusses migrant crisis, Idlib with Macron, Merkel and Johnson

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a videoconference with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Ankara, Turkey, March 17, 2020. Mustafa Oztartan/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed mainly the migrant crisis Tuesday as well as the situation in Syria's last rebel enclave of Idlib, with the leaders of France, Germany and Britain.

The four-party video conference that involved French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson comes after Turkey decided last month to re-open its border for refugees seeking to reach Europe.

The move sparked tensions with Brussels, and with neighboring Greece, when thousands of migrants massed on the Turkish-Greek border.

"Humanitarian assistance for Idlib, and the refugee issue" were discussed at the video conference, according to the Turkish presidency, besides other issues including the Libya crisis.

Erdogan's move to open the gates for refugees heading to Europe came after more than 50 Turkish troops were killed in Syrian regime fire in northwestern province of Idlib in February.

Turkey is home to some four million refugees - most of them Syrians - and is demanding greater assistance from the European Union amid fears of another influx from Idlib where the regime backed by Russian air power has launched an offensive to take back the remaining territory.

Ankara hopes for progress on a new migrant deal with Brussels by the time of the next EU leaders' summit on March 26.

Because of the growing spread of COVID-19, the conference was held via video conference Tuesday, rather than an actual meeting scheduled in Istanbul as previously announced by Erdogan.

The four leaders also discussed "joint action against Coronavirus", Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted.

Turkey has so far 47 confirmed cases of coronavirus and no deaths have been announced.

 

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