Turkey Agrees to Curb Migrant Flows to Belarus Under EU Pressure
(Bloomberg) -- Turkey agreed with the European Union that it would monitor flights headed to Belarus in an effort to prevent them from being used to ferry migrants toward the Polish border, an EU official said Thursday.
Under the plan, Turkey will take several steps, including suspending the sale of one-way tickets to Minsk from Turkish territory. Turkish Airlines agreed to restrict the sale of tickets from Istanbul to Minsk for citizens of countries that have been among the primary ones involved in migrant flows, particularly Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Turkey will also prevent Turkish airliners’ Middle East networks from being used by Belavia, the Belarus national airline, to purchase code-sharing flights to funnel passengers to Istanbul so they can catch Belavia flights to Minsk, the official said.
Refugee tensions on the border between Belarus and Poland has spiraled in recent days, with the EU accusing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of instigating migrants flows in retaliation for its pressure on his government over its brutal crackdown on domestic opponents. Several thousand people are stuck on the frontier.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation by phone, the Kremlin said. In response to Merkel’s appeals to intercede with his ally Lukashenko, Putin reiterated his stance that the EU should talk to Minsk directly.
The EU has worked in earlier flareups to prevent migrants from being flown to Belarus in the first place, particularly from Iraq. This latest agreement with Turkey is aimed at cutting off the flow of migrants before they reach Belarus.
But the Turkish government has pointed out to EU officials that the problem is a tough one to tackle. For one thing, many of the migrants have the proper paperwork to travel, which makes it difficult to prevent them from traveling or to punish airlines that permit them on board.
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