Merkel, Tusk to visit Turkey to discuss migrant deal

15th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and top EU officials will visit a Turkish border area with Syria later this month following last month's deal to stem the flow of migrants to Europe, a statement said on Friday.

The European Union sealed a deal with Ankara under which Turkey takes back all "irregular migrants" who arrive in the Greek islands in exchange for billions of euros in aid for refugees and political concessions.

"As a follow-up to the EU-Turkey political agreement of 18 March, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk will travel to Gaziantep in Turkey on Saturday 23 April," his office said.

Accompanying him will be Merkel and First Vice President Frans Timmermans of the European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation EU, it added.

No other details were available.

Gaziantep, where many Syrian refugees live, is just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Kilis on the Syrian border, which houses a massive refugee camp for Syrians who have fled their country's devastating five-year war.

Turkey had initially announced that Merkel would join other European leaders in opening a school and hospital in Kilis but German officials later said there would be no such visit then.

A European source said it remained possible that Tusk and Timmermans would visit Kilis where a new refugee centre was built under the EU-Turkish agreement.

The visit to Turkey comes amid soaring tensions over a vulgar satirical poem by a German TV comic.

Merkel on Friday authorised a Turkish demand for the comedian to be prosecuted over a crude poem about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a bitter row over free speech.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker had on Wednesday criticised Turkey for its reaction to the issue and vowed not to yield on European values in order to preserve the migration deal.

© 2016 AFP

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