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Erdoğan to discuss migrant issues with EU in Brussels: report

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he will have talks in Brussels as he called on Greece to “open the gates” at Turkey’s border to refugees trying to get into Europe, Al Jazeera reported.

“I will have a meeting with European Union officials tomorrow [Monday] in Belgium,” Erdoğan said during a speech in İstanbul on Sunday.

He added that he would discuss the migration issue after opening Turkey’s borders with Europe. “I hope I will return from Belgium with a different outcome.”

Barend Leyts, spokesman for European Council President Charles Michel, tweeted that the Turkish leader would meet with Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss “migration, security, stability in the region and the crisis in Syria.”

Turkey has repeatedly railed against what it describes as unfair burden-sharing, since around 4 million mostly Syrian refugees live in Turkey.

In 2016 Turkey and the EU agreed upon a deal in which Brussels would provide billions of euros in aid to help Ankara finance housing, schools and medical centers for the refugees.

But Ankara has repeatedly accused the bloc of not fulfilling promises made as Europe suffered the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Over a million people fled to the continent in 2015.

“We have fulfilled the obligations of the agreement we have made with the EU. However, the EU did not fulfill its commitments except for minimal contributions … I hope we will get different results this time,” Erdoğan said.

Turkey says the EU has failed to honor promises including visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and an enhanced customs union.

During the same televised speech, Erdoğan urged Greece to open its border after clashes in recent days between migrants and the Greek police.

“Hey, Greece! I appeal to you … to open the gates as well and be free of this burden,” he said, adding, “Let them go to other European countries.”

Thousands of migrants massed on the land border with Greece after Turkey last month said it would no longer prevent people from leaving the country.

Turkey’s decision set off an escalating dispute between Ankara and Brussels as well as a war of words between Turkey and Greece.

But Erdoğan on Friday ordered the Turkish coastguard to prevent risky Aegean sea crossings after more than 1,700 migrants landed on Lesbos and four other Aegean islands from Turkey over the past week.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Michel met with Erdoğan in Ankara on Wednesday.

Ankara also wants more European support in Syria, where its troops are supporting rebels against Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

Erdoğan has felt extra pressure as nearly a million people in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib fled towards the Turkish border during the recent Syrian regime assault, which is backed by Russia.

But Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to a ceasefire on Thursday after Turkey launched an offensive against Damascus following the deaths of 59 Turkish soldiers in recent attacks blamed on the regime.

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