Merkel calls on EU to keep Turkey commitments


German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that European Union member states must fulfill their commitments under the EU-Turkey refugee agreement.

Speaking at a press conference with Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Berlin, Merkel reaffirmed her support for the March 18 deal that was signed by the EU and Turkey in an effort to discourage irregular migrations through the Aegean Sea.

The deal included taking stricter measures against human traffickers, and the EU in turn would provide 3 billion euros of aid to help Turkey improve the conditions of nearly three million Syrian refugees living within its borders.

Another part of the deal was visa liberalization to allow Turkish citizens to travel in the Schengen zone without obtaining a visa.

However in hindsight, less than 1 billion euros of the promised aid has been given to Turkey, while visa liberalization has still not been granted to Turkish citizens even though Turkey has met the 72 benchmarks set by the European Commission.

Turkish officials have repeatedly said the EU-Turkey deal on migration will be "null and void" if visa liberalization is not granted.

"I believe that the European Union must fulfill its commitments under the agreement. We assume that Turkey will also meet its obligations," Merkel said.

The chancellor's remarks came amid heavy criticism of the EU by Turkish leaders for not showing solidarity and sharing Turkey's burden in the refugee crisis, despite promises made under the agreement.

Merkel acknowledged slow progress in the implementation of the agreement, however, she expressed readiness to address such concerns.

"I believe that Europe is a reliable contractual partner, and so is Turkey. We still have some more work to do together," Merkel said.

Turkey currently hosts some 3 million refugees, mostly from neighboring Syria.

While the EU has promised to provide funds for improving the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Turkish officials criticize Brussels for delays in the mobilization of these funds.

The EU has failed to deliver a promised 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid that has been pledged for the refugees.

Turkey will also receive an additional 3 billion euros, agreed upon in a refugee deal with the EU, throughout the next two years until 2018, then PM Ahmet Davutoğlu said in March.

However, Turkey has so far received only 677 million euros ($716 million), according to government sources.

Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world and has so far spent more than $12 billion on the refugees.

Ankara also criticizes the EU for not honoring its promise to relocate some of the Syrian refugees from Turkey.

So far, only 1,614 Syrian refugees have been resettled from Turkey to Europe, while 578 irregular migrants have been returned from the Greek islands to Turkey, according to the European Commission.

Europe had agreed to take 72,000 refugees and relocate them as part of the deal.

Israeli defense minister urges EU to take tougher stance against Turkey

As Merkel called on European Union member states to fulfill their commitments under the EU-Turkey refugee agreement, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman conversely urged the EU to adopt a "tougher stance" against Turkey.

Lieberman told European foreign and defense ministers to learn from Russian President Vladimir Putin on "how to deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan," the Haaretz daily reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, which was based on unnamed European diplomatic sources, Lieberman told EU ministers that they should follow Putin's example and put pressure on Erdoğan.

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