Thursday

25th Feb 2021

Turkish minister in Brussels to discuss new migrant deal

  • Turkey's foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is meeting EU commissioners in Brussels (Photo: Bled Strategic Forum)

Discussions for a new EU pact with Turkey to stem migration appear to be on the table, according to the Turkish government.

A Turkish government spokesperson on Wednesday (20 January), in an email, confirmed that the issue will be broached this week.

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Turkey's minister of foreign affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his deputy Faruk Kaymakcı are currently in Brussels.

On Thursday, they are scheduled to meet EU commissioners Margaritis Schinas, Ylva Johansson, and Olivér Várhelyi. A meeting is also planned with the EU's foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell.

"Turkish MFA and Deputy MFA are now in Brussels to have talks with the EU counterparts on a variety of issues including prospective update of EU-Turkey Statement," said the Turkish government spokesperson, when asked.

However, the European Commission has since denied it.

"There are no talks about any new EU Turkey Statement. The deal reached already still stands and is being implemented," said European Commission spokesperson, Peter Stano.

The initial pact had been agreed in March 2016 and aimed at stemming migration flows towards the Greek Aegean islands in return for €6bn of EU funds to help refugees in Turkey as well as other political concessions.

But Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also used it as leverage against a European Union that seeks to prevent any repeat of 2015, when some 1 million people arrived.

Erdoğan has made numerous threats to suspend it.

He followed through early last year, when he let thousands of people try to cross into Greece, sparking renewed tensions with the European Union and Athens.

Turkey is also refusing to accept any returns from Greek islands due to, what it says, are safety issues surrounding the spread of the pandemic.

For its part, the European Commission has argued that the EU-Turkey statement was working as designed, regardless of wider tensions with Cyprus and Greece and the jailing of journalists.

Those issues triggered targeted sanctions against Turkey, with the EU, in December, accusing Ankara of "unilateral actions and provocations" when it comes to gas-drilling off the Cypriot coast in Cypriot-claimed waters.

Erdoğan had also provoked outrage after he reopened part of the beachfront of Varosha in Cyprus, a resort town that was abandoned following Turkey's invasion in 1974.

With Turkey increasingly isolated, Erdoğan has now embarked on a charm offensive, hoping to renew strained relations with the EU and the new US administration under Joe Biden.

Earlier this week, Çavuşoğlu met Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas in Ankara.

In a statement, Maas said he had welcomed "signs of détente" from Turkey since the start of the year.

"The fact that Turkey and Greece have announced that they will resume exploratory talks on 25 January, which have been suspended since 2016, is an important first step," he added.

A meeting was also held earlier this month between Erdoğan and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The commission's spokesperson services would not comment on the content of the talks, referring instead to a vague tweet by von der Leyen.

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