German chancellor and Turkish premier pledge to continue to work intensively to solve Europe's migrant crisis



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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pledged Friday to continue to work intensively together to solve Europe's migrant crisis — not only to stem the flow of people but to improve conditions in camps in Turkey and to try and bring about a peace deal in Syria.

Germany saw an unprecedented 1.1 million asylum-seekers arrive last year, most of whom had come via Turkey from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Turkey, in the meantime, hosts the world's largest number of refugees, including more than 2.2 million from neighboring Syria, and has been struggling to keep up with the flood.

"The refugee crisis is not Germany's crisis, it is not Europe's crisis, it is not Turkey's crisis," Davutoglu said in a joint press conference with Merkel. "It is a crisis that was born out of the crisis in Syria. If we cooperate we can bring this crisis under control. If we throw the issue at each other, solving this issue will become more difficult."

Syria's five-year civil war has killed a quarter of a million people, displaced half the country and enabled the radical Islamic State group to seize a third of its territory. Peace talks planned for next week in Geneva are meant to start a political process to end the conflict.

"I am deeply convinced that the question of illegal immigration can only be solved when we work together toward resolving the cause of the flood," Merkel said.

Merkel has refused to put a cap on the number of migrants allowed into Germany, but is facing growing domestic pressure and has focused on working with Turkey to help slow the flow of people coming to Europe.

She has also been urging other EU members to make good on their pledge of giving Turkey 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to improve conditions for the almost 3 million refugees living there.

She said more also needs to be done to combat the networks of smugglers bringing the refugees to Europe, and to provide education and health care for those who have sought refuge in Turkey and other countries neighboring Syria.

Heading into the meeting, Davutoglu told German news agency dpa that even 3 billion euros may not be enough because nobody knows how long the crisis will last. He suggested that the refugee crisis has already cost Turkey $10 billion.

"We're not begging for money from the EU," Davutoglu said. "But if there is a serious commitment to sharing the burden, then we have to sit down and talk about all the details of the crisis."

Davutoglu also praised Merkel for her open-door stance.

"Political leaders are remembered not just for their projects, for but the humanitarian stances they take in difficult times," he said. "The step Mrs. Merkel took will go down in history. The people of Syria will never forget this humanitarian stance."


Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.

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