EU, Turkey to review migrant deal as border tensions simmer

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A migrant flashes a victory sign as he rides with others in a cart near the Turkish-Greek border on Sunday, March 8, 2020. Thousands of migrants headed for Turkey's land border with Greece after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government said last week that it would no longer prevent migrants and refugees from crossing over to European Union territory. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

ANKARA – The European Union and Turkey agreed to review a 4-year-old deal on managing migrants and refugees in an effort to settle a dispute that sent thousands of people to the Turkey-Greece border in hopes of reaching Europe, top EU officials said Monday.

Under the 2016 agreement, the EU offered Turkey up to 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in aid for the Syrian refugees it hosts, fast-tracked EU membership and other incentives to stop Europe-bound migrants. The number arriving in Greece from Turkey dropped dramatically after the deal took effect.

After talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels, European Council President Charles Michel said teams headed by the EU foreign policy chief and Turkey's foreign minister would work "in the next days to clarify the implementation of the deal between Turkey and the EU to be certain that we are on the same page."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that during the talks with Erdogan “there was a clear focus on, ‘Let’s discuss what is fact. Let’s sort out how both sides see the past and how we evaluate the EU-Turkey statement’.”

The Turkish leader left without speaking to the media. Officials from his office described the talks as “productive.”

Turkey hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, and Erdogan has demanded that Europe shoulder more of the burden of caring for them.

He has accused the EU of not meeting its obligations under the 2016 agreement, including failing to pay money promised to Turkey to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

The EU says it is disbursing the funds but also accused Erdogan of “blackmail” for waving migrants through to Europe late last month after dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in fighting in northern Syria.