By Fuat Kabakci and Muhammet Tarhan
ANKARA/BUDAPEST, Hungary (AA) – Turkey has supported its allies, primarily Poland, during the migrant crisis with Belarus, the Turkish foreign minister said on Tuesday.
“As a country hosting more than 5 million refugees and the largest number in the world since 2014, Turkey is the best country to understand the difficulties that our ally Poland and other countries are witnessing,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Budapest at the sixth meeting between foreign ministers of Turkey and the Visegrad Group of four Central European nations.
He said the situation in the Balkans was “concerning” as stability and prosperity in the region is vital for both Turkey and the European Union.
Cavusoglu said the Visegrad Group, EU, and all relevant countries must work together to overcome the crisis, calling for negotiations to continue between all sides.
Since August, EU countries bordering Belarus – Lithuania, Latvia and Poland – have reported a dramatically growing number of irregular migrants from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria crossing their borders.
The EU blames Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for orchestrating an ongoing crisis that, at its peak last month, saw thousands of asylum seekers stranded on the EU’s eastern frontiers.
Cavusoglu said Turkey is working closely with the Visegrad Group states Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to fight irregular migration.
“We will host Hungarian security forces in Turkey, while Turkish police will be deployed in the region to enhance cooperation in the fight against irregular migration and international organized crime networks,” he said.
- Afghanistan crisis
The top Turkish diplomat said he told his counterparts about the importance of gradual engagement with the Taliban administration in Afghanistan and the “effect Turkey’s engagement has had until today.”
“The situation in Afghanistan is showing us that we face a new risk of mass migration,” he said, emphasizing that the international community must support Afghanistan and its people.
“The conditions of millions of people displaced in Afghanistan and Syria is a source of concern for all of us. In terms of migration, cooperation, fair burden-sharing, as well as voluntary and safe returns, are especially important.”
Afghanistan has been facing a crippling economic crunch since the Taliban took power in August, as the US has blocked over $9 billion in reserves and many donors and organizations, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have halted payments.
According to figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program, 22.8 million people, or more than half of the population, will face severe food shortages if the crisis persists.
According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, some 665,000 people were displaced in Afghanistan between January and September 2021, adding to the 2.9 million already driven from their homes by decades of conflict in the war-ravaged country.
* Writing by Zehra Nur Duz