Merkel Says Turkey Is Essential to Resolving Refugee Crisis

  • German leader cites `great concern' by Turkey over fresh wave
  • Merkel met with Turkish Premier Davutoglu at UN on Saturday

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said working with Turkey is essential to curtailing the flood of migrants out of Iraq and war-wracked Syria, and in grappling with the region’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Speaking at a United Nations sustainable development summit in New York on Sunday, Merkel said she pledged to bolster cooperation with the government in Ankara after meeting yesterday with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The premier expressed alarm that the deteriorating conflict in Syria could spur another wave of refugees, Merkel said.

“Turkey expressed great concern that a fresh movement of refugees could come out of Syria,” Merkel told reporters. “We have to ask ourselves how to end the suffering in Syria.”

The enhanced cooperation underscores the German government’s view of Turkey as a linchpin in resolving the crisis that’s engulfed the region, even as Germany has been critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to quash dissent in recent years.

With some 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, the country is a key transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty across its borders with Iraq and Syria, hundreds of thousands of whom make their way to Greece on inflatable boats or across the land border to gain entry into the European Union. Turkey has lobbied to set up a “safe zone” inside Syria that would be off-limits to both Islamic State forces and Syrian Kurdish separatists.

Merkel was widely lauded by world leaders at the UN for her broad acceptance of refugees in Germany, which is struggling with an estimated influx of 800,000 refugees this year -- with some in the government saying a million is more accurate. As those pouring into the EU seek passage through the western Balkans to the north, Merkel said a German-Turkish working group is crucial to gaining “better control over refuge movements.”

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