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The New Arab

Top EU envoy heads to Turkey for Syrian refugee talks

Refugees began to travel to Edirne province with the hopes of crossing into Greece [AFP]

Date of publication: 3 March, 2020

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EU High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner Janez Lenarcic will spend two days in the country for 'high-level' meetings with Turkish officials on the Syrian crisis.
The EU's top diplomat and crisis-management chief set off for Turkey on Tuesday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he could allow millions of refugees to head for Europe.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner Janez Lenarcic will spend two days in the country for "high-level" meetings with Turkish officials on the Syrian crisis and the row about refugees and migrants.

"They will hold talks on the ongoing escalation in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib and the humanitarian consequences for the civilian population on the ground, as well as the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey," Borrell's office said.

"During their visit to Ankara, they will meet with high-level interlocutors of the Turkish authorities."

After the talks in Ankara, Borrell will attend an EU foreign ministers meeting in Zagreb on 5 and 6 March, and Lenarcic will visit refugee centres in Turkey's southeastern province of Gazantiep.

The visit comes amid intense fighting in the Syrian city of Idlib between pro-regime forces and Turkish-backed rebels, and after Erdogan escalated the refugee dispute with Brussels. 

Turkey has given a green light to refugees and migrants on its territory, many of them displaced Syrians, to leave for the European Union, in defiance of a 2016 deal to keep them.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Turkey's move as "unacceptable" and EU migration commissioner Margaritis Schinas said nobody could "blackmail or intimidate the EU".

The United Nations refugee agency called on all sides to "refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people".

Refugees and migrants began to travel to Turkey's northwestern Edirne province with the hopes of crossing into Greece and onwards to western Europe last week, after Erdogan declared his country's borders with neighbouring Greece and Bulgaria would be opened.

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