Published: 18 December 2016 Sunday, 02:00 PM
The European Union is willing to implement all facets of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement reached this March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday.
Her remarks came amid Turkish leaders’ growing criticism of the EU member states for failing to honor their commitments under the agreement.
Speaking at a press conference with visiting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Berlin, Merkel said Germany and Greece would continue their close cooperation, to speed up implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement, in order to address the refugee crisis and share the burden.
“With regards to the EU-Turkey agreement, the procedures are still not fast enough, contrary to what we have hoped for. But we are in good talks. We hope to make progress, step by step,” she said, before her talks with Tsipras.
Merkel underlined that the EU leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the EU-Turkey deal at their summit on Thursday, and expressed their willingness to implement all facets of the agreement.
She also said Germany and Greece share the view that NATO’s mission in the Aegean should continue as an effective measure to stem human traffickers.
The EU and Turkey agreed in March on a plan to stop irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking cracking down on human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
While the plan has successfully reduced refugee flows, its implementation has been slow, with several EU member states opposing the relocation of refugees, and Greece lacking the capacity to swiftly register and process applications of those who entered Greek islands illegally.
Under the agreement, Ankara agreed to take back all Syrians who crossed onto the Greek islands illegally from Turkey, and the EU promised to take in the same number of Syrian refugees from Turkey.
- Refugees and Cyprus
Merkel stressed on Friday that Germany and the EU will continue to show solidarity with Greece, one of the member states worst affected by the refugee crisis.
“Greece cannot be left alone with the problem,” she said, adding that both Germany and Greece will continue to work to fairly distribute the burden among all EU member states.
Merkel had championed the EU-Turkey refugee deal in the hope of stopping the refugee influx, after nearly a million refugees arrived in Germany last year.
While the EU promised acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals, recent political tensions between Brussels and Ankara has led to doubts about the future of the refugee agreement.
Turkish officials have also criticized their European counterparts for failing to deliver a promised 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid that has been pledged for the refugees.
Greece’s Tsipras renewed support Friday for the deal and Turkey’s membership process, but also underlined that Ankara has to fulfill its commitments.
In brief remarks at the German Chancellery, Tsipras said recent efforts to solve the Cyprus issue would be among the topics he and Merkel would discuss.
"We support a just and viable solution without guarantees,” he said, opposing possible security guarantees of Turkey for the Turkish Cypriots, as part of a political solution to the decades-old conflict.
He said Greece would back a solution which would guarantee an independent, reunited, and federal republic in Cyprus.
Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the northern third and Greek Cypriot administration in the south since a 1974 military coup on the island was followed by Turkey’s intervention as a guarantor power.
(Source: Anadolu Agency)