As Europe struggles to come up with solutions to the immigration crisis, Turkey has sent some suggestions for cooperation—and a bill. Open Europe reports:
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, wrote to EU leaders yesterday demanding bold concessions as the price for Turkey’s greater cooperation. He proposed EU and US support for a buffer and no-fly zone in northern Syria by the Turkish border, measuring 80km by 40km. This could enable Ankara to start repatriating some of the estimated 2 million Syrian refugees it is hosting. French President François Hollande urged Cameron to speed up British security plans, including a Commons vote for airstrikes in Syria. “I am waiting for Britain to take decisions concerning Syria,” he said. “It has already started acting. But we will without doubt have to increase our pressure, the reconnaissance flights that we are carrying out, then if we have targets, objectives, that will be translated into airstrikes.”
As we’ve noted before, Turkey has already spent $7.6 billion on the Syrian refugee problem, and has taken the lead in providing humanitarian assistance and shelter. So it’s not surprising they would want some help in return for making life easier for Europe, which has shouldered comparatively less of the burden.
On the other hand, as Dov Friedman has noted in these pages before, “Turkey’s efforts in support of refugees have been courageous, but they were also self-serving politically”—and the same is true now. Some of what Turkey hints at starts to look like a plan to carve out a “safe zone” in Syria—possibly at the expense of the Kurds (win-win for Ankara)—and then just to dump the refugees there. It’s hard to believe the Europeans would accept such a cynical bargain, even as their realpolitik determination to solve the crisis grows by the day.
But perhaps there is some middle ground. Politico Europe reports that EU leaders have invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Brussels to discuss options at the beginning of next month. Some form of aid-and-enforcement deal may be workable—if the Europeans can find a way to finesse the Syria issue.