The Turkish president has threatened to pull out of a key deal with Brussels if the bargain is not met by June. Erdogan said Turkey wasn't feeding 3 million Syrians "for thanks."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the European Union on Thursday that his government would not move forward on a deal to reduce the flow of migrants unless the bloc fulfills its promises to Turkey. Under the deal, Turkey will take back refugees who have illegally fled to Greece in exchange for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, among other things.
"There are precise conditions. If the European Union does not take the necessary steps, then Turkey will not implement the agreement," said the leader from his presidential palace. Erdogan added that "everything that has been promised, everything that is specified by the accord," must be put in place "at the latest" by June 2016.
'We're not doing this for thanks'
On top of a relaxation of visa regulations, the EU also vowed to re-energize Turkey's bid for accession to the organization alongside an aid package of some 6 billion euros to help the country manage the 2.7 million Syrian refugees who have sought shelter within its borders.
"Some three million people are being fed on our budget," the president continued. "We have received a lot of thanks for our actions on the refugees and in the fight against terrorism. But we are not doing this for thanks."
Erdogan has frequently said that Ankara has spent some $10 billion since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011 on refugee welfare.
Monday saw the first transfer of refugees from the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios, but the process has been complicated by an outpouring of last-minute asylum applications from those desperate to avoid being sent back to Turkey. Only about 200 people have been ferried back to Turkish shores thus far.
es/jil (AFP, AP)