Merkel sticks to refugee course, rejects isolation suggestions

Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected suggestions on Friday that she was isolated in her battle to resolve Europe's refugee crisis as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu heaped praise on her "historic" role in the refugee crisis.

"She will not be forgotten nor is she alone," said Davutoglu standing alongside Merkel after an official government consultation between the two nations, which were dominated by the refugee crisis and illegal immigration.

"We stand hand in hand with Germany in this critical phase," said Davutoglu, who was greeted in Berlin with full military honours. "Mrs Merkel's humanitarian stance and sense of leadership has to be respected."

Turkey plays a critical role in Merkel's attempts to forge an international deal aimed at stemming the flow of asylum seekers into Europe and consequently easing the political tensions in Germany unleashed by the influx of refugees.

"Individual solutions - every state for itself - will not help us. We need a pan-European approach," said Merkel, adding that she did not feel she was isolated in her stance in the crisis.

Instead, she expressed her determination to press on with her present course saying it is necessary to tackle the causes of the refugee crisis and insisting that there is still widespread support in Europe to retain open borders.

Merkel is struggling to reach an agreement with other EU states to help share the refugee burden as public opinion across Europe hardens against the asylum seekers.

The chancellor has pledged to ensure “a marked reduction” in new arrivals this year after the numbers topped one million last year, many of them fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Davutoglu raised the stakes in the negotiations with both Germany and the EU over the refugee crisis ahead of his meeting with Merkel.

The Turkish leader told dpa he believed the 3 billion euros (3.3 billion dollars) pledged in November by the EU to help improve conditions of the 2.5 million refugees living the country may not be enough to help Ankara cut the flow of refugees into Europe.

"Turkey cannot overcome the problem alone," said Davutoglu. "We must work together."

Merkel reaffirmed the EU's pledge for aid to Turkey. However, wrangling in the EU over how to divide the bill between its 28 member states means the money has still not been paid out to Turkey.

Since the start of the year more than 36,000 refugees - many fleeing Syria’s five-year war - have braved icy winter weather to set out from Turkey in often flimsy boats in the hope of reaching Europe.

The threat of terrorism was also on the agenda at the Berlin meeting after an attack in Istanbul killed 10 German tourists last week.

"It was an attack against the whole world," said Davutoglu.

"A very intensive exchange" between Turkish and German officials to stamp illegal immigration through human trafficking will follow the Berlin talks, Merkel said.

Last update: Fri, 22/01/2016 - 20:57

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