Merkel in Turkey to Address Libya, Syria with Erdogan

Friday, 24 January, 2020 - 10:00 -

Merkel in Turkey to Address Libya, Syria with Erdogan

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the conference on Libya at the Chancellery in Berlin, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat

German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday on a number of thorny issues, ranging from Libya to Syria to migrants.

The two leaders inaugurated a new Turkish-German University in Istanbul, where Erdogan expressed his concerns about the Libyan conflict.

"If calm is not established as soon as possible, the atmosphere of chaos in Libya will affect all the Mediterranean basin," he said in a speech.

"We hope the international community will not make the mistakes it made in Syria," he said.

Merkel arrived in Istanbul days after she hosted a meeting in Berlin on the conflict on Libya, where world powers pledged to halt foreign interference and honor a widely violated arms embargo.

Her visit came amid fears of a possible new refugee influx as thousands flee new Syrian regime attacks in a northern Syrian province.

Already, the number of migrants entering Europe from Turkey rose significantly last year as people fleeing conflict in Syria and Afghanistan arrived in Greece, leading to deteriorating conditions in overcrowded camps on the eastern Aegean islands.

Spearheaded by Germany, the EU agreed in 2016 to grant Turkey up to 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in Syrian refugee aid money and other incentives to persuade the government in Ankara to stop migrants leaving for Greece.

Erdogan, however, frequently accuses the EU of not fulfilling its side of the deal and has in the past threatened to "open the gates" for migrants to depart for Europe.

He says his country cannot be expected to shoulder the burden of hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey alone and is seeking European support to settle Syrian refugees in a so-called "safe zone" in northern Syria. European nations are reluctant to back such a proposal.

Merkel’s visit also came amid rising tensions with the EU over Turkey's bid to drill for natural gas in waters in the eastern Mediterranean where EU-member Cyprus says it has economic rights. Cyprus last week denounced Turkey as a "pirate" state that flouts international law.

Turkey, however, insists it is protecting its rights and interests, and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots, to the region's energy resources. It says it is carrying out drilling activities as part of an agreement with the Turkish Cypriots.