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EU considering extra €500 million in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey: report

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The EU is preparing an additional 500 million euros in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey to ease tensions with Ankara, AFP reported on Thursday, citing European sources.

The funding offer comes after EU officials accused Turkey of “blackmail” by opening its border with Greece last week to thousands of refugees trying to reach Europe.

The spat had raised the specter of a repeat of the 2015-2016 migrant crisis.

The money will be in addition to the 6 billion euros allocated in 2016 to finance programs to support roughly 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

That was part of an EU-Turkey deal that dramatically cut the flow of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday he had already rejected an EU offer of 1 billion euros.

“They tell us, ‘We will send you a billion euros.’ Who are you trying to fool? … We don’t want this money,” he said.

The commission, the EU’s executive arm, will also propose the facilitation of visas for Turkish nationals heading to Europe.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell meanwhile announced on Wednesday the release of 170 million euros in emergency aid “for the most vulnerable in Syria” during his visit to Ankara.

Rights groups have accused Turkey of using migrants as bargaining chips by pushing them towards the Greek border. But they also condemned Europe for failing to provide greater assistance.

Thousands have arrived at the frontier since Erdoğan announced that Turkey would no longer stop them from trying to enter the European Union.

Erdoğan has repeatedly bemoaned a lack of support from Europe for his military incursions into Syria, where Turkish troops are fighting against Russia-backed Syrian government forces.

Most recently he accused European leaders of being hypocrites in providing aid for refugees, underlining that the EU pledged to give € 700 million to Greece.

“Chancellor [Angela Merkel] promised us €25 million [in aid], but we didn’t see anything after that,” he told journalists on the presidential plane on his way back to Ankara after a meeting with the Russian president.

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