New negotiations between Turkey and the European Union over refugees have begun, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanding additional financial aid and support for safe zone plans in northern Syria, according to the Nordic Monitor website.
Negotiations are being conducted in secret, the report said, in order to avoid drawing criticism from human rights groups that had described the 2016 refugee deal as a “shame” for Europe.
Since the deal, Erdoğan has several times publicly threatened EU countries with opening migrant routes to Europe.
According to Turkey’s presidential communications office, Erdoğan spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the phone on Wednesday. Erdoğan and Merkel focused on migration, developments in Syria and bilateral relations, the office said in a statement. Leaks from both sides indicated that the Turkish president pressured Merkel, architect of the 2016 refugee deal, to extend the financial benefits of the previous agreement.
Two days after the phone call, on Friday, EU and Turkish delegations met in Brussels. The Turks, headed by Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Faruk Kaymakçı, discussed issues related to migration with officials from the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the official statements revealed.
Sources indicated that Kaymakçı led an advance team that might have been instructed to define the ground rules for further negotiations and explore the possibility of a summit.
Meanwhile, Deputy Interior Minister Muhterem İnce and German Minister of Interior Horst Seehofer also met in Berlin on Friday. İnce was accompanied by Abdullah Ayaz, director general of migration management and responsible for the implementation of policies and strategies related to migration in Turkey and coordination between the relevant agencies and organizations.
A possible extension was also signaled by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis last week. The day after Erdoğan’s threat, Rutte said the deal should be renegotiated.
Erdoğan on Monday said a possible Syria safe zone could lead to a return of up to 3 million Syrian refugees to their homeland.