'Border gates will be opened if you go too far’: Erdogan
Turkish president tells European Union: ‘Border gates will be opened if you go too far’
By Can Erozden
Turkey's president strongly criticized the EU on Friday, accusing it of breaking promises on refugees.
Speaking at a meeting of the Women and Democracy Association in Istanbul, Erdogan said it was Turkey which was feeding over three million refugees.
Addressing the EU, he added: “You did not keep your word. When 50,000 refugees were at the Kapikule [Turkey-Bulgaria] border, you cried out.
“You started to say: 'What will we do if Turkey opens its border gates?'”
“If you go too far, the border gates will be opened," he said.
Referring to the famous case of Syrian refugee toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed ashore in Turkey in 2015, Erdogan said: "Now in the world there are millions of Aylan Kurdis waiting for a response, compassion and mercy. Are there any steps taken for them? No.
“There are millions of babies, women, all from 7 to 70 [years of age] in Africa waiting for a solution. And there are no steps taken.”
Addressing the EU, he said: "You have never treated humanity honestly. You did not take 'Aylan toddlers' when they washed ashore in the Mediterranean or 'Omran babies'.”
Omran Daqneesh is the five-year-old Syrian child photographed in August with his face covered in dust and blood. The image went on to become an icon of civilian suffering in the war-torn nation.
“It is us, who are feeding the 3-3.5 million refugees in Turkey. You [the EU] broke your promises.
"Neither I, nor the Turkish people will buy these bluffs," the president said.
Erdogan's criticism on Friday followed the European Parliament's approval on Thursday of a non-binding motion to freeze EU-membership talks with Turkey.
The president reiterated his criticism of the EU later on Friday at an inauguration ceremony in Istanbul.
“They welcomed the coup plotters on red carpets. They are uncomfortable because we defeated the coup plotters. If the coup plotters had been successful on July 15, they would have jumped with joy in Europe’s squares,” he added.
Turkey formally applied to become an EU member in 1987, while accession talks began in 2005.
On Thursday, the European Parliament approved a non-binding motion to freeze EU-membership talks with Turkey, in response to post-coup investigations and recent developments in the country.
Germany: EU-Turkey agreement is a success
Following Erdogan’s heavy criticism, the German government renewed its commitment to the EU-Turkey refugee deal, and signaled a readiness to discuss any problems in its implementation.
“We consider the EU-Turkey agreement as a common success,” the German government’s deputy spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told a news conference in Berlin on Friday.
“The continuation of this agreement is in the interest of all parties concerned. The EU stands by its commitments and also complies with them,” she said.
Demmer urged all parties to tone down their rhetoric and discuss existing problems in direct talks.
“Threats from both sides will not help now. If there are problems, we must address them. As I have said, this agreement is in the interest of all,” she stressed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had championed the EU-Turkey agreement of March 18, which aimed at discouraging irregular migration through the Aegean Sea.
The agreement introduced stricter measures against human traffickers, while the EU promised financial aid to improve the conditions of nearly three million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Since the agreement came into force, Germany has seen a sharp decline in refugee numbers, helping Merkel to address the increasing domestic pressure over the migrant crisis.
Last year, Merkel pursued an open door policy for refugees despite widespread criticism and the country received a record 890,000 refugees.
Erdogan talks to Putin
Meanwhile, the Turkish President and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin spoke over the phone to discuss bilateral and regional issues, according to a presidential source on Friday.
Erdogan and Putin talked about Turkey-Russia relations as well as mainly Syria and other regional topics, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said.
The two leaders also discussed the attack on Turkish soldiers near Al-Bab in northern Syria as part of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield and agreed on speeding up their efforts to find a solution to the humanitarian crisis in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the source added.
Erdogan highlighted that Operation Euphrates Shield was an indicator of Turkey’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and its support for Syria’s territorial integrity.
The Turkish military said on Thursday three Turkish soldiers were martyred and 10 others wounded in an air attack carried out by Syrian regime forces.
The Operation Euphrates Shield launched by Turkey in late August to rid the northern Syrian border area of terrorists.
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