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Turkish-EU spat: Will it affect Syrians?

Yunus Paksoy | 2017-03-17 19:27 Damascuss

Protesters wave flags outside the Dutch consulate in Istanbul (Photo: AP)

The relations between Turkey and the European Union (EU) soured over the course of the last week due to a diplomatic scandal in the Dutch city of Rotterdam on March 11.

Turkish Minister for Family and Social Affairs, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, was temporarily detained in Rotterdam and denied entry to the Turkish consulate where she was forced to remain in her car for hours. Later on, the Dutch government deported Kaya, in a move that went down in history as one of the biggest diplomatic scandals in Europe.

Earlier this week, the Turkish government declared an announcement regarding sanctions to be imposed on the Netherlands. In addition, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu hinted at the possibility of taking further steps and sanctions against the Netherlands, saying: “If the Netherlands does not take steps to correct the mistakes they made, we will have extra steps.”

In the face of the Turkish-Dutch discord, the 28-nation bloc took the side of the Dutch. Ankara’s response to the EU’s silence has been staunch.

A migrant deal between Ankara and Brussels reached in March 2016 was brought to the agenda once again in the Turkish-EU strife. The Turkish government has recently warned the bloc that the deal could be cancelled.

Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu said at a live television program on Wednesday that the Turkish government may revoke the migrant deal with the EU.

Turkey’s EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik joined Çavuşoğlu in Ankara’s harsh warning to the EU. Çelik told Russian news agency TASS that there was currently no sense for Turkey to continue implementing an agreement with the EU on refugees.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had the last say on the issue on Thursday. “Now they are speaking of the readmission agreement. Which readmission agreement? Come off it,” Erdoğan said at a rally.

Millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their homeland since the brutal dictator Bashar Assad started his bloody campaign against his own people in 2011. An unprecedented refugee crisis surfaced in the world after millions were left out in the cold.

The disheartening refugee crisis reached its peak in 2015 when more than a million people tried to cross into Europe illegally. However, the aforementioned Turkish-EU deal put an end to the story to a great extent.

Now that the deal has been in jeopardy, Syrians who are willing to cross into Europe may regain their hopes. The images of thousands of Syrians walking towards the Turkish-Greek border are still relatively new. A possible move by the Turkish government to open the way for Syrians could be an unexpected twist.

While the Turkish government warns the EU, the bloc is inclined to work with Ankara. European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas stressed that the EU was loyal to the deal. "We continue to remain loyal to the Turkish-EU deal. It is an agreement depending on mutual trust, and we expect both sides to respect that," the spokesperson said.

Diplomatic crises and harsh exchange of words between Ankara and Brussels authorities may change the lives of many Syrians. The developments in the upcoming period will be more crucial than ever.

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Yunus Paksoy is the chief reporter of the Istanbul-based Turkish newspaper DAILY SABAH. Paksoy has covered Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria and the Mosul Operation in Iraq and focuses on developments in Syria, the Middle East and Turkey’s southeast.

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