March 19, 2018 / 2:26 PM / 6 months ago

Turkey's Erdogan says will ask EU for rest of 3 billion euro aid for refugees

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey will ask the European Union about the remainder of a 3 billion-euro ($3.69 billion) fund intended for Syrian refugees during talks in Bulgaria next week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Turkey has accepted 3.5 million refugees from Syria, and the EU is already spending 3 billion euros to help them as part of a 2016 deal to curb migration into Europe. But Erdogan says the bloc is not delivering on its promises.

“The promises made to us have not been kept ... They said they would give 3 billion euros plus another 3 billion euros of support, but so far 850 million euros have entered our safe,” Erdogan said. “If you’re going to give that money, then do it. This nation has pride and you can’t toy with our pride.”

Europe’s relations with Erdogan have been fraught in recent years. Top EU officials will meet him in the Bulgarian city of Varna, the bloc’s rotating president, on March 26 to discuss EU-Turkey relations, regional and international issues.

The EU, which depends on Turkey to keep a tight lid on immigration from the Middle East, has infuriated Erdogan by criticizing the scale of his crackdown on suspected supporters of a 2016 failed coup, prompting him to attack some EU members in his speeches.

The bloc has responded by freezing some funding that Turkey had been eligible for as a candidate for EU entry and suspending talks on Turkey’s joining the EU, talks that have long been stalled anyway.

Last week, however, the EU announced a second tranche of 3 billion euros for projects benefiting Syrian refugees in Turkey.

“Now they’re discussing the second 3 billion euros, but we haven’t even received the first payment,” Erdogan said. “If they’re going to sleep on the money, then that’s their choice. We will put this before them once again in Varna.”

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay, writing by Ezgi Erkoyun, editing by Dominic Evans, Larry King

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