Skip to main content

Afghanistan: Turkey's Erdogan rejects EU request to take in fleeing Afghan refugees

Turkey cannot 'take on responsibility' of accepting Afghans formerly employed by Western countries as they flee Taliban, says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Thirty-six Afghan workers and their families from the EU mission in Kabul disembark a plane at the Torrejon de Ardoz air base, 19 miles from Madrid, on 19 August (AFP/File photo)

Turkey cannot bail out the European Union by taking in Afghans who worked for Western countries in Afghanistan, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said. 

"We have received a request to welcome local employees of a European Union mission in Afghanistan," a government statement quoted Erdogan as saying to European Council President Charles Michel in a telephone call on Sunday.

'You cannot expect Turkey to take on the responsibility of third countries'

-Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey

"The member states only open their doors to a tiny portion of the people who served them and who are in difficulty," the statement quoted him as saying.

"You cannot expect Turkey to take on the responsibility of third countries," he continued.

Erdogan reiterated, the day after similar remarks during a conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that Turkey was already hosting around five million refugees and "cannot support an additional migratory burden".

Michel, for his part, confirmed on Twitter that he had discussed the unfolding situation in Afghanistan with Erdogan, describing it as a "common challenge for Turkey and the EU".

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday urged all countries, especially European countries, to take in some Afghan refugees.

Erdogan had on Saturday noted that the EU has yet to honour a 2016 accord aimed at halting the flow of migrants to Europe.

He said it was "unrealistic" for the EU to expect Turkey to take on more migrants as long as the 2016 accord has not been fully implemented.

Turkey looks to peace with Taliban

Meanwhile, Turkey has been working on brokering a deal that would allow its forces to continue guarding the Kabul International Airport's military section against external attacks -  a role it has taken on for the last several years. 

To that goal, Turkish officials are exploring ways to maintain their presence in the country by negotiating with the Taliban, in a bid to protect its own commercial and political interests.

Afghanistan: Turks want withdrawal of their troops from Kabul, says poll
Read More »

President Erdogan earlier this week publicly declared that Turkey would like to remain at the airport through a deal with the Taliban or the transitional government, which, he said, could "strengthen Taliban’s position" in the international arena.

"Our agencies have been in contact with the Taliban for some time. We are ready to cooperate to protect the peace of the Afghan people, and the security of our Turkish kin that live in this country, and to preserve Turkish interests," Erdogan said in televised remarks on Wednesday.

"We welcome the restrained and moderate statements released by the Taliban leadership."