EU foreign ministers are to hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss the worsening Syria conflict that is driving refugees to the bloc’s borders with Turkey, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday (1 March).
The fighting around the Syrian rebel stronghold of Idlib “represents a serious threat to international peace and security” with grave humanitarian consequences for the region and beyond, he said in a statement.
The EU “needs to redouble efforts to address this terrible human crisis with all the means at its disposal,” he said.
“I am therefore calling for an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council next week to discuss the unfolding situation.”
Borrell said the meeting was being organised particularly at the request of Greece, which faces a buildup of thousands of migrants on its border with Turkey.
European Council President Charles Michel separately announced that he was to visit the Greek border on Tuesday with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
He tweeted “support for Greek efforts to protect the European borders”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday “opened the doors” for migrants to try to get into Greece and Bulgaria, the two EU member states bordering his country, in an effort to draw European support for his military operation in Syria.
On Thursday, his forces suffered staggering losses of dozens of troops to air strikes that Ankara blamed on Damascus’s Russia-backed government.
Since then, fighting has escalated in and above Idlib, worsening what was already the worst humanitarian crisis of Syria’s nine-year-old war, with nearly a million civilians fleeing their homes.
The flow of migrants across Turkey to Greece’s border in particular has revived EU fears of a reprise of the 2015 refugee emergency. That inflow of mostly Syrian asylum-seekers was stemmed in 2016 by a deal with Ankara called the EU-Turkey Statement.
Borrell said that “the EU-Turkey Statement needs to be upheld,” adding that “the EU is engaged in supporting Greece and Bulgaria in addressing the unfolding situation”.
He called for a ceasefire in Syria and a de-escalation of hostilities, and offered EU support “to mitigate the consequences of the crisis”.
“Everybody, especially the Syrian regime, needs to urgently re-engage in a political process under the auspices of the United Nations,” he said.
He said the extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers would help to focus on the developments and emphasised that “collective action” was needed to “effectively address the crisis and to contribute to paving the way for a political solution”.
Commission Vice President for Promoting the European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas has called for an extraordinary meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers over the migration pressure at the Greek and Bulgarian borders.