1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Merkel backs Turkish-led refugee initiative in Syria

January 24, 2020

The German chancellor has signaled the government's intention to provide funds for "this humanitarian action." Turkey's leader has proposed building shelters for refugees displaced by fighting in Syria's Idlib province.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Deeb

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday also warned that 400,000 refugees displaced by fighting in Syria's Idlib province are heading towards the Turkish border.

Renewed fighting between the Russian military, regime forces and rebel militant groups in the area has triggered a new exodus of refugees, he said during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel said Germany is willing to support efforts to build shelters in northern Syria for refugees displaced by fighting in Idlib.

"I can imagine that we can provide German funds for this humanitarian action," Merkel said, without providing any figures.

Germany has taken extraordinary measures to support Syrian refugees displaced by the conflict. In 2015, nearly 900,000 refugees sought sanctuary in Germany under Merkel's open-door policy.

Read more: How the EU's resettlement plan is failing to meet its goal

Ibrahim Kalin on Conflict Zone

Refugee deal

Erdogan also said the EU has yet to fulfill its commitments under a so-called refugee deal worth billions of euros.

"Even the first part, the first €3 billion ($3.3 billion), hasn't been fully released by the EU," Erdogan said during the news conference.

The funds would not be added to the national budget, but instead would be distributed to NGOs working with refugees in Turkey, Erdogan added.

Merkel said she "can very well imagine the EU providing support in excess" of the agreed amount in the future.

Since 2016, Turkey has actively prevented Syrian refugees from attempting the perilous journey to Greece in exchange for billions of euros from the EU. But Erdogan has repeatedly accused Brussels of failing to deliver the more than €6 billion agreed upon by the leaders of the bloc's 28 member states.

Read more: Offensive in Syria's Idlib puts strain on EU-Turkey refugee deal

Warming up

DW's Istanbul correspondent Julia Hahn said Merkel and Erdogan both showed they were open to further developing the EU-Turkey refugee deal.

"The 2016 migration pact struck between Ankara and the EU has been fragile, and many were wondering whether Erdogan was still committed to that deal — or whether Brussels would prefer renegotiating it," Hahn said.

"The tentative answer from both leaders is yes."

The meeting was a rare sign of thawing relations amid a heated national debate in Germany on how the government should deal with the Turkish leader, who in recent years has enacted authoritarian measures in the Anatolian country.

ls/ng (AFP, AP)

Every evening, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.