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Merkel discusses refugee accommodation as Turkey mulls migrant city in Syria

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Greece needs to work faster to accommodate migrants. But a Turkish plan could keep many Syrian refugees from getting to Europe - or even Turkey - in the first place.

"Originally, Greece should have created 50,000 accommodation places for refugees by the end of 2015,"

Merkel

told German weekly "Bild am Sonntag" in comments released ahead of Sunday's publication.

Tens of thousands of migrants are

stranded in Greece, a third of them in Idomeni at the Macedonian border,

after Austria and Balkan countries closed their borders.

"The backlog must be resolved now at lightning speed because the Greek government has to guarantee decent accommodation," the chancellor said. She also promised Athens help from the European Union to cope with the crisis.

While Germany said it aims to support Greece, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere added that Berlin would not unilaterally resettle people directly from Greece.

"The policy of waving migrants through began, among other places, in Greece," de Maiziere told the daily "Passauer Neue Presse." "Germany in particular has borne the brunt of it. The policy of waving through is now over and must remain so."

Merkel has, however, pushed for an EU-wide resettlement program that would share asylum seekers across the 28-member bloc. Some 1.1 million people sought refuge, mainly from conflicts in the Middle East, in Europe in 2015.

Bavarian leader

Horst Seehofer

of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, said the blockade by Austria and other countries was benefiting Germany because of the reduced number of migrants.

Türkei Anschlag in Ankara - Präsident Recep Erdogan

Erdogan proposes a special city for Syrian refugees as a solution to the migrant problem

Erdogan proposes refugee city

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed building a special city for Syrians fleeing the war and creating it inside Syria.

"I am going to tell you something. What is the formula? We found a city in the north of Syria," the Anadolu news agency quoted the president as saying.

The city would be 4,500 square meters in area, could be built together with the international community, and refugees could resettle there, Erdogan suggested, adding that he had discussed the plan with US President Barack Obama.

The Turkish president's comments came shortly before he meets European Union leaders at the EU-Turkey refugee summit on Monday. Turkey has been asking its Western allies to create a safe zone inside Syria to house refugees.

Over 2.7 million people have fled from Syria to Turkey and Ankara has complained of lack of international support in caring for the refugees. The European Union has agreed to a deal providing Turkey with 3 billion euros so the country can care for refugees in exchange for stemming the flow of people into Europe. The agreement is expected to be a key talking point at the EU-Turkey summit.

Millions of people have left Syria after civil war broke out in 2011. The conflict has killed over 250,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

mg/sms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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