ANKARA: The prime ministers of Turkey and Estonia met yesterday for high-level talks in capital Ankara, where the issue of a Turkey-EU refugee deal resurfaced. At a joint news conference, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Estonian leader Juri Ratas, whose country currently holds the rotating six-month EU presidency, said the two states, both NATO members, enjoyed good bilateral relations. However, Yıldırım said, “We have launched a program with the EU on the refugee crisis but this program isn’t running at the desired speed.” He added that Turkey had received only 80 million euros ($9.3 million) out of a promised 3-billion-euro ($3.5 billion) budget to help Syrian refugees.
Turkey became one of the first countries to “bear the difficulties and authority gap brought about by the civil war in Iraq and Syria,” Yıldırım said, recalling how over 3 million refugees have been sheltered in Turkey since 2011. Ratas said he appreciated Turkey’s “magnificent” work in preventing a refugee influx into EU territory. “The refugee crisis is a significant issue for the EU. This is a field that requires cooperation between EU member states and their neighbors,” Ratas added. Turkey’s EU membership bid was also discussed in the premiers’ meeting. Yıldırım said he expected Wednesday’s visit by Ratas would help renew Turkey’s EU ties. “We are waiting for some steps to revive Turkey-EU relations. I hope that some concrete developments could happen under your [Estonia’s] EU presidency,” Yıldırım said.