Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Europe Friday with another three million Syrian refugees if the European Union halts talks with Turkey over membership.
The EU parliament proposed halting membership talks with Turkey Thursday over Turkey’s response to a failed July coup. Turkey imprisoned or laid off tens of thousands of former government workers in a full scale purge after elements of the Turkish military tried to seize power.
Erdogan’s coup response was called “repressive” and “disproportionate.” Erdogan immediately responded, “We are the ones who feed 3m-3.5m refugees in this country,” threatening “you have betrayed your promises. If you go any further those border gates will be opened.”
Turkey agreed in March to house and care for millions of Syrian refugees that would otherwise flee to Europe, in exchange for increased EU funding and accelerated talks regarding Turkey’s EU membership. Erdogan has previously threatened to put refugees on “buses” to Europe as a negotiating tactic.
“Rhetorical threats are absolutely unhelpful and should not be the standard tone between partners,” the EU responded to Erdogan’s threat Friday. “This will not help Turkey’s credibility in the eyes of European citizens. Europe will not be blackmailed.”
“The numbers of refugees who have already tried to make their way to the EU are enormous, but pale to those who have potentially yet to come. The migrant deal between Turkey and the EU was always problematic and temporary, yet the prospects of maintaining the deal—to say nothing of improving upon it—are increasingly bleak if current trends continue,” U.S.-based security intelligence firm The Soufan Group warned Monday.
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