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Turkey Warns It Could Open Gates To Migrants If Pushed By EU

  • RFE/RL

In March, Turkey and the European Union agreed a deal for Ankara to halt the flow of migrants to Europe -- an accord that has largely been successful in reducing numbers crossing the Aegean Sea.

In March, Turkey and the European Union agreed a deal for Ankara to halt the flow of migrants to Europe -- an accord that has largely been successful in reducing numbers crossing the Aegean Sea.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Turkey could throw open its borders to illegal migrants heading to Europe, a day after the European Parliament voted for a temporary halt to EU membership talks with Ankara.

"We are the ones who feed 3-3.5 million refugees in this country. You have betrayed your promises," Erdogan said, referring to EU leaders, in a speech in Istanbul on November 25.

"If you go any further, these border gates will be opened," Erdogan added. "Neither I nor my people will be affected by these empty threats. Don't forget, the West needs Turkey."

The European Parliament voted on November 24 to freeze talks with Ankara on Turkey joining the EU. The vote was nonbinding but it underscored the increasing unease in Europe over Erdogan's tightening grip on power in the wake of a failed coup attempt in July.

More than 125,000 people accused of links to the coup plotters -- from soldiers and judges to journalists and teachers -- have been fired or detained since the July 15 coup.

Erdogan's comments prompted a swift warning from Germany that said such "threats" were unhelpful.

"If one looks at the facts, then it is the case that both sides are sticking to the agreement and we hope that remains the case, as it is in the interests of both sides," German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told reporters in Berlin.

In March, Turkey and the European Union agreed a deal for Ankara to halt the flow of migrants to Europe -- an accord that has largely been successful in reducing numbers crossing the Aegean Sea.

According to the International Organization for Migration, over 170,000 people have crossed to Greece so far this year compared to almost 740,000 in 2015.

Under the March deal, EU leaders pledged billions in aid to Ankara, fast-track visa conditions, and possible new impetus for EU membership talks. Erdogan has repeatedly criticized what he has said is the bloc's slow progress in meeting those promises.

Turkey hosts at least 2.7 million Syrian refugees. Thousands of migrants from other countries, including Afghanistan, also use Turkey as a transit route to reach Europe.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters
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