Turkey and the European Union sketched out a new plan Monday to stem the flow of migrants, in the absence of EU agreement on how to handle the surge in arrivals from Syria and other countries.

Europe has struggled with an influx of migrants and asylum seekers that brought more than 1 million people to its shores last year, with some 135,000 more following since January. Many are fleeing the war in Syria, but economic migrants have also joined their ranks.

To stem the flows, the EU has sought help from Turkey, which has been the launch pad for most migrants. But an initial deal between Brussels and Ankara, reached in October, has done little to curb the arrivals.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu unexpectedly presented his EU counterparts with new proposals during an extraordinary summit in Brussels on Monday, including offering to take back all migrants and asylum who arrive in Greece.

In return, EU member states would commit to directly resettling one Syrian refugee out of Turkey for each Syrian that Ankara takes back from Greece.

This would remove the incentive for Syrians to pay criminals to smuggle them across the Aegean Sea, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. "Doing so will not only land you back in Turkey, but will put you on the bottom of the list for resettlement," he added.

The deal put forward by Ankara would also lead to an increase in EU funding for Syrians living in Turkey.

Davutoglu said his country is not "demanding any money" to cope with the migration crisis, but rather "fair burden-sharing." Ankara says it has taken in 2.7 million Syrian refugees, at a cost of more than 10 billion dollars.

"Our main objective is humanitarian," he added. "We don’t want to see women and children dying in [the] Aegean Sea."

But the deal also includes long-sought progress on Turkey's EU membership bid and the offer of lifting visa requirements for Turkish citizens visiting the bloc by the end of June, as long as Ankara fulfils the necessary conditions.

French President Francois Hollande noted that Turkey would have to meet 72 EU benchmarks for visa-free travel. He argued that the deal did not grant Ankara favourable conditions, but was in the interest of both sides.

"Without Turkey, we cannot settle the problem because the refugees are coming via Turkey," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also backed the Turkish proposals, arguing that they could bring about a "qualitative change" to the migration crisis if fully implemented. She expressed hope that the deal could be concluded at the next EU summit on March 17-18.

In the meantime, EU President Donald Tusk is to continue negotiating with Ankara on key details of the arrangement.

The negotiations with Turkey are part of several measures the EU is undertaking to bring the migration surge under control. Most arrivals came via Greece last year, continuing their journey through the Western Balkans to reach wealthy northern European states.

Countries along the migration route have imposed border restrictions in recent weeks, but the move has sparked a humanitarian crisis in Greece, which was already contending with thousands of migrants arriving from Turkey.

More than 13,000 people were waiting to cross from Greece into Macedonia, aid agencies estimated early Monday. Local media reported that the border between the two countries was closed, including for freight trains.

Merkel opposed moves at the summit to declare the Western Balkan route closed, as had been demanded by countries along the path.

"When it comes to the question of how we get the number of refugees to decrease not just for some, few countries, but for all countries - including Greece - it cannot be about closing something or other," Merkel told journalists.

In their joint statement, the EU leaders instead recalled a previous commitment to stop waving through migrants and asylum seekers, while noting that "irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route have now come to an end."

They also pledged to "stand by" Greece as it copes with thousands of stranded migrants and do their "utmost to help manage the situation," as well as calling for further assistance to help Athens manage its external borders, including those with Macedonia and Albania.

There are concerns that the stranded migrants may eventually look for another route to northern Europe, for instance via Albania and Italy.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.