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Berlin, Ankara seek Nato aid to stop traffickers

AFP/REUTERS
Published : Feb 9, 2016, 1:40 am IST
Updated : Feb 9, 2016, 1:40 am IST

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Anitkabir — the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey— during her visit to Ankara on Monday. — AFP

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Anitkabir — the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey— during her visit to Ankara on Monday. — AFP

Turkey and Germany will ask Nato to help police the Turkish coast and stop traffickers from sending migrants on dangerous sea journeys, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday. “We will use the Nato defence ministers’ meeting (from Wednesday) to talk about the situation in Syria as well as whether and to what extent Nato can help in monitoring the situation at sea and lend support to (the EU’s border agency) Frontex and Turkish Coast Guards,” she said after talks in Ankara with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Ms Merkel was in Turkey on Monday for more talks on reducing the influx of migrants to Europe. Turkey, a key country on the migrant route to Europe, is central to Ms Merkel’s diplomatic efforts to reduce the flow. Germany saw an unprecedented 1.1 million asylum-seekers arrive in 2015, many of them fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan

In her weekly video message on Saturday, Ms Merkel said EU countries agree that the bloc needs to protect its external borders better, and that that is why she is seeking a solution with Turkey. She added that, if Europe wa-nts to prevent smuggling, “we must be prepared to take in quotas of refugees legally and bear our part of the task. Her talks in Ankara come as Turkey faces pressure from the EU to open its border to up to 35,000 Syrians who have massed along the frontier fleeing an onslaught by government forces.

Turkey says it has reached its capacity to absorb refugees but has indicated that it will continue to provide refuge.

Turkey agreed in November to fight smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration. In return, the EU has pledged $3.3 billion to help improve the condition of refugees, and to grant political concessions to Turkey, including an easing of visa restrictions and the fast-tracking of its EU membership process.

Turkey has since started to require Syrians arriving from third countries to apply for visas, in a bid to exclude those who aim to continue on to Greece. Ankara has also announ-ced plans to increase Coast Guards’ capabilities.

Ms Merkel said that Turkey and Germany will ask Nato to help the police at the Turkish coast and stop traffickers from sending migrants on dangerous sea journeys. “We will use the Nato defence ministers’ meeting (from Wednesday) to talk about the situation in Syria as well as whether and to what extent Nato can help in monitoring the situation at sea and lend support to Frontex and Turkish Coast Guards,” she said.

Location: Turkey, Ankara