Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Brussels on Monday to meet with European Union leaders amid a mounting migrant crisis at Turkey’s land border with Greece.
He met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg before meetings with EU Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Euro News reported.
“It is beyond reason and understanding that a neighboring and ally country can point to us as the cause of the wave of irregular migration,” Erdogan told reporters after talks with Stoltenberg.
GREECE’S LESBOS ISLAND MIGRANT CENTER SET ABLAZE, THOUSANDS OF SYRIAN REFUGEES ARRIVE AFTER TURKEY OPENS BORDERS
Michel told reporters that Turkey and the EU “have different opinions on different things and that’s why it’s important to have a frank and open dialogue.”
“For us, it’s important to implement the deal,” he said.
Also Monday, the European Union announced five of its member states – Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal – will be taking in about 1,500 sick or unaccompanied migrant children currently living in overcrowded camps in Greece, BBC reported.
This comes about a week after Erdogan announced Turkey was opening its borders, prompting tens of thousands of migrants to travel by land and sea toward Greece, all in an apparent bid to get the European Union to carry more of the burden of caring for refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
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Turkey, which currently houses more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has accused the European Union of failing to disburse some of the $6.7 billion in aid promised in a 2016 agreement designed to halt the flow of migrants into EU member states.
Buses, cars and cabs were organized in Istanbul to ferry people to the border, while some of those who managed to cross have said they were told by Turkish authorities to go to Greece and that the gates were open. The border area has seen violent confrontations between the migrants and Greek security forces, with officers in Greece firing tear gas to block the migrants and Turkish police firing tear gas back at their Greek counterparts, according to The Associated Press.
Over the weekend, the European Union announced it would allocate nearly $800 million in funding for Greece, for establishing and keeping up “infrastructure” at the border, guaranteeing a “shield” against fresh migrant flows prompted by heightened violence as Russian-backed Syrian forces continue their offensive against rebel groups in the Idlib province.
Within the past week alone, more than 1,700 migrants traveling across the Aegean Sea from Turkey by boat have landed on Lesbos and other Greek islands, BBC reported.
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Two installations built for refugees on the island of Lesbos were set ablaze over the past week. After years of living on the frontline of Greece’s refugee crisis, Lesbos and Chios residents last month protested the Athens’ government’s plan to build new migrant centers on the islands, where existing camps are already several times overcapacity. Dozens of Greek riot police officers were injured when demonstrations turned violent.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.