Turkey, EU Seek to Update Migration Deal

BERLIN—Turkey on Monday said a migration deal with the European Union needs to be updated in light of the conflict in northern Syria and to solve the ongoing migrant crisis at the Greek–Turkish border.

Under the 2016 deal with Europe, Turkey agreed to keep migrants, mostly from Syria, on its soil in exchange for billions in aid. However, Turkey last week began encouraging migration to the European Union, in an attempt to pressure the EU.

Since then, tens of thousands of migrants have been trying to enter Greece.

Under the deal, the European Union also promised Turkey three things: visa-free travel to the bloc, faster progress in membership talks, and an upgrade to their trade agreement. However, that same year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cracked down on the opposition following a coup attempt against him—effectively stalling progress on the EU deal.

In Syria, as Turkish troops faced off against Russian-backed government forces, Turkey has become frustrated with what it regards as too little European support in the war. The ongoing conflict has put additional pressure on the country from migrants crossing its border, which already harbors some 3.6 millions migrants.

The European Union is determined to avoid a repeat of 2015, when more than a million people reached its shores via Turkey.

On Tuesday, Erdogan flew to Brussels for talks.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, said after the meeting that progress is possible.

“We have expressed very clearly to President Erdogan our commitment to move forward on these issues, provided that this is reciprocal,” von der Leyen said.

The EU leader also said Erdogan first needs to stop encouraging migrants to cross into Greece before the EU offers more aid.

In Brussels, Erdogan also met with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, asking for military support in Syria. Stoltenberg said the alliance was already supporting Turkey and that that would continue.

Reuters contributed to this report.