Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer considers sanctions against Russia conceivable to end the fighting in Syria and thereby reduce the number of refugees from the country. There are diverse, including economic, relationships with Russia, she told RTL and ntv. In the Ukraine conflict, sanctions had shown that Russia was not going to let everything go through. "And that would be the question that, in my view, is now also being asked in Syria."
Russia, as a supporter of the Syrian regime, is a key player in the struggles for the Idlib province that are driving hundreds of thousands of people to flee. Many refugees who have already found shelter in Turkey are pushing to the border with the EU member state Greece after the Turkish government has announced the opening of the border. But they are stopped there, even by force.
Kramp-Karrenbauer calls for increased European involvement in the region. "It was always clear to me that the agreement between Turkey and Russia cannot be a sustainable solution. This is becoming increasingly clear," she said. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are important negotiating partners when it comes to establishing a protection zone for people who are fleeing the fighting in Idlib. She was very happy that Chancellor Angela Merkel had again taken up the idea of a protective zone. "We have to talk to those involved on the spot, that is, talk to Putin about it, talk to Erdoğan about it. The Chancellor does that, and that's right." If such a protection zone had to be protected militarily, that would be a question for the European partners and thus also the Bundeswehr. "But I think that's the unrealistic variant." It is more likely that a protection zone in which the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and humanitarian organizations will provide for people.
Russia and Turkey support opposing parties in Syria. Putin is the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose army is advancing to the last rebel stronghold in Idlib with the help of the Russian Air Force. The Turkish military is supporting rebels there and has already been involved in clashes with Syrian troops. Only on Wednesday morning the Ankara government announced that two Syrian soldiers had been killed and six injured in a Syrian attack.
EU interior ministers fry the situation
Erdoğan accuses the EU of not adhering to the refugee deal, which the EU rejects. Turkey actually committed to tackling illegal migration to the EU in 2016. The agreement also provides for Greece to be able to send refugees illegally to the Aegean Islands back to Turkey. In return, the EU takes over a Syrian refugee from Turkey for every returned person and supports the country financially with the care of the people.
The Turkish government in Europe has been accused of blackmail for opening the border. EU Council leader Charles Michel wants to meet Erdoğan in Ankara because of the midday argument. The EU interior ministers are also discussing the situation in Brussels. The aim is to discuss ways in which Greece can be helped to protect the EU's external borders. For Germany, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) takes part in the meeting.
Ursula von der Leyen - "Our first priority is to protect the external borders" EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has visited the Greek-Turkish border. It wants to support Greece with 700 million euros for border guards. © Photo: Giannis Papanikos / AP / dpa
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged up to 700 million euros in support for migration management in Greece. The EU border guards Frontex also wanted to expand their aid significantly. The ministerial meeting in Brussels will also focus on the contribution that individual EU countries can make to this.
Greece expels migrants
Greece announced that it would not process asylum applications from new migrants and wanted to expel people as soon as possible. This Wednesday a Greek Navy ship was expected on the island of Lesbos. It is said to take on board around 400 refugees who have arrived on or after March 1, and who will initially remain on the ship. Afterwards, they will be taken to a closed camp on the mainland at a later date. Then they should be shown in their countries of origin. This was confirmed by a coast guard officer. New arrivals were also arrested on other islands in the east of the Aegean in order to expel them immediately.
Border crossings between Turkey and Greece
After the opening of the Turkish borders on February 29, last weekend alone, more than 900 people from Turkey had transferred to the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos. On Monday, more than 600 men, women and children were added, according to the Ministry of Migration in Athens. The island of Lesbos has long been a center of the refugee crisis in Europe. The Moria refugee camp, which is designed for fewer than 3,000 people, currently has more than 19,000 people living in catastrophic conditions.
The pressure on the Greek borders has now increased significantly. According to the UN, thousands remain in the cold on the Turkish border, many want to move on. Greece vigorously secures the border: security forces use multiple grenades and tear gas to push people back. Human rights organizations and migration researchers sharply criticized the procedure.