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Turkish PM: Turkey and Greece can't deal with refugee burden alone

Turkey and Greece cannot shoulder the burden of the refugee crisis alone, Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu has said. Meanwhile, EU Council President Tusk said migrant numbers from Turkey to EU were "far too high."

EU Council President Donald Tusk pressed Turkish authorities to step up efforts to stem the flow of migrants from their country to Europe.

"We agree that the refugee flows still remain far too high and that further action is needed," Tusk said after holding talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara on Thursday.

The European politician, however, also praised Turkey for its increasing cooperation with Europe, which includes more coastguard patrols and a tightening of the visa regime.

"It is for Turkey to decide how best to achieve such a reduction," Tusk said, adding that there was a dire need to crack down on human trafficking.

Donald Tusk trifft Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara

Tusk is sounding out Ankara ahead of a EU-Turkey summit next week

"To many in Europe, the most promising method seems to be a fast and large scale mechanism to ship back irregular migrants arriving in Greece," he said. "It would effectively break the business model of smugglers."

According to the UNHCR, more than 131,000 migrants and refugees - a higher number than the first half of 2015 - have reached Europe from the Middle East this year. Some 122,637, mostly fleeing the war in Syria, have landed in Greece.

'Don't come to Europe'

Watch video 02:18

Tusk meets Tsipras

Tusk's Ankara visit comes ahead of an EU-Turkey summit on March 7 to discuss the ongoing refugee crisis.

Earlier on Thursday, Tusk held talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and had a clear message for economic migrants looking to make their way into the European Union.

"Don't come to Europe. Don't believe smugglers. No European country will be a transit country," he said.

'Not responsible for the crisis'

Responding to the crisis and EU demands, Davutoglu said Turkey and Greece alone could not shoulder the burden of the unprecedented refugee issue. He reiterated his government's stance that the flow of refugees would ebb with the resolution of the Syrian crisis.

"Neither Turkey [nor] Europe are responsible for the Syrian crisis. But it is Turkey and the EU which are paying the price," Davutoglu said at a joint press conference with Tusk, adding that Ankara would continue to fulfill its obligations under a joint action plan with the EU.

There are between 12,000 and 15,000 people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in the area around Idomeni, which is on the Greek border with Macedonia. But Macedonian authorities are letting through fewer than a couple of hundred a day.

Up to 70,000 people could be stuck at the border by the end of the month, according to Greek officials.

shs/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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