SOFIA, Bulgaria (AA) – Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday Turkey was doing its best to help Syrian refugees but criticized the EU for what he described as its lack of pragmatism.
Speaking to reporters during his visit to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia as part of 126th Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Cavusoglu said: "As Turkey, we are doing our best to help these people. We have spent more than $10 billion. Today, we see a slowing down of things… about [the] three billion euros the EU will give."
The Turkish minister referred to the amount pledged by EU in Dec. 2015 to help Syrian refugees.
He added: "They [EU] are not behaving pragmatically in the transfer of this money. Even project preparation will last two years.
"What will happen to the needs of these people within two years?" asked the minister.
Syria has remained locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the regime of Bashar al-Assad cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
The crisis saw more than 850,000 refugees cross from Turkey to the EU last year, prompting a deal for Ankara to accept returned migrants in a one-for-one exchange for Syrian refugees to be resettled in the EU.
The agreement included EU pledges to donate six billion euros ($6.8 billion) to aid refugees in Turkey, speed up the country’s EU accession and introduce visa-free travel for Turkish nationals.
Cavusoglu added that migration was a reflection of disputes and people had to flee their homes due to unemployment, economic crises and bad government in Iraq, Libya and Syria.
Around 2.7 million Syrians who have fled the civil war in their country are being sheltered in camps inside Turkey, with many others living in cities and elsewhere.
The conflict in Syria has now driven more than four million people – a sixth of the country’s population – to seek sanctuary in neighboring states, making it the largest refugee crisis in a quarter-century, according to the UN.