E.U. senior officials bolster support for Greece in border issue; Merkel calls for safe areas in northern Syria

BRUSSELS – On Tuesday, the European Union urgently dispatched its senior officials to Turkey and Greece after Turkey’s decision to open its borders and allow tens-of-thousands of refugees to attempt to cross into Greece.

As a result, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and European Parliament President David Sassoli headed to the Greek-Turkish border.

After visiting the Greek-Turkish border, von der Leyen stated that the E.U. would provide Greece with “all necessary support” to help the country cope with the flow of refugees from Turkey. “The pressure will not weaken our resoluteness and our unity,” said von der Leyen. “We will succeed, and Turkey is not an enemy,” she added, pledging to allocate an amount of € 700 million to deal with the latest wave of refugees and migrants. Half of that amount would be made available to Greece immediately.

European observers believe that Turkey is trying to put pressure on Europe to obtain more support for its intervention in Idlib, Syria.

The situation on the Greek-Turkish border has become increasingly tense in recent days, as the clashes led Greek police to fire tear gas and use water cannons against people trying to cross the border. In return, Turkish tear gas has been launched across the border at police. Several reports claimed the Turkish tear gas canisters were handed to migrants by Turkish police. A video released by Greek officials reportedly shows tear gas being fired directly by Turkish police across the border into Greece.

Two participants in a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel with members of the German Bundestag stated that she informed them about her support for establishing safe areas in northern Syria.

Merkel also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to participate in a four-party meeting with herself, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the escalation in Syria. Instead, Putin will meet Erdoğan in a face-to-face meeting in Moscow on Thursday.