Merkel ‘horrified’ by Russian bombing in Syria

ANKARA: The Latest on the influx of migrants into Europe (all times local):

2:55 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she’s “not just appalled but horrified” by the suffering caused by Russian bombing in Syria.

Merkel, speaking Monday after a meeting with Turkey’s prime minister, said that Turkey and Germany will push at the United Nations for everyone to keep to a U.N. resolution passed in December that calls on all sides to halt without delay attacks on the civilian population.

She said: “We have been, in the past few days, not just appalled but horrified by what has been caused in the way of human suffering for tens of thousands of people by bombing — bombing primarily from the Russian side.”

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Syrian city of Aleppo “is de facto under siege. We are on the verge of a new human tragedy.”


2:45 p.m.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says Turkey and Germany have agreed on a set of steps to halt the flow of refugees from Syria, including a joint diplomatic initiative to stop the onslaught against Aleppo.

Davutoglu said during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the two countries would also carry out “joint efforts” for greater NATO involvement in the refugee issue. He said they would seek the use of NATO’s observation capabilities at the border with Syria and in the Aegean Sea.


2:20 p.m.

A top government official has reacted angrily to European Union pressure on Turkey to open its doors to tens of thousands of Syrians who have massed at the frontier fleeing a government onslaught.

Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan accused the EU on Monday of giving Turkey lessons in morality and pushing the refugee burden on the country, without taking any responsibility itself.

Akdogan said: “On the one hand they say ‘open your borders, take everyone in’ on the other hand they say ‘close your border don’t let anyone through.”

“Without even providing money, they say ‘taking these people is conscience necessity,'” Akdogan said. “Is it just us that must to act with conscience? … Why don’t you take them in?” He was referring to the 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) the EU has pledged to help Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Numan Kurtulmus, another deputy prime minister, said Sunday that Turkey had reached the end of its capacity to absorb refugees but would continue to accept Syrians escaping the conflict. He says the country is home to 3 million refugees, including 2.5 million Syrians.


2:15 p.m.

Germany’s foreign minister says that seeking a military solution to Syria’s civil war will only pave the way for years more fighting.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier said before talks involving the U.S., Russia and regional powers expected Thursday in Munich that it’s important to calm fighting in Syria, enable humanitarian access and so “reopen the door for negotiations between the government and the opposition in Geneva.”

He added Monday that it’s a “difficult task, but I think the current situation should show everyone that anyone who counts on a military solution will experience five years more civil war.”

A U.N.-led attempt to launch indirect talks between a government delegation and opposition representatives in Geneva was adjourned last week amid bickering. U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said the process will resume Feb. 25.


1:55 p.m.

Authorities in Macedonia have begun reinforcing a barrier at its border with Greece, designed to limit the number of migrants and asylum seekers crossing into the country.

The army confirmed Monday that construction was underway to create a second layer of fencing along sections of the border.

An Army official told The Associated Press that “preparations are underway to build a second row of barbed wire and metal fencing, five meters behind the existing fence.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak directly to the news media.

Macedonia started building the fence in November when it toughened entry criteria for migrants and refugees traveling through Greece.

By Konstantin Testorides in Skopje.


1:50 p.m.

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos says the country will complete new migrant screening centers and transit camps within a week, despite long delays and local protests against some of the projects.

Kammenos says: “Our country has undertaken certain important commitments for mid-February, and with the help of the armed forces, those commitments will be honored,”

Protests against two planned transit camps took place Monday near Athens and Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki. The rally outside the Greek capital was organized by the extreme right Golden Dawn party.

According to Greek and European Union officials, the two new camps will have a combined capacity of 3,000 places, to be expanded to 8,000 places later this year.

At the weekend, a group of residents on the island of Kos continued demonstrations against a planned screening center for migrants, with protesters using burning tires to set up roadblocks.


1:50 p.m.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says 22 migrants attempting to reach Greece have drowned after their boat sank off the Turkish coast.

The Anadolu Agency said Monday the boat capsized in the Bay of Edremit, which is just a short distance away from the Greek island of Lesbos.

Earlier, the private Dogan news agency said the bodies of 11 migrants were found further south, near the Aegean resort of Dikili.

Dogan reported the 11 had died in a separate boat accident, bringing the total number of dead Monday to 33.

The International Organization for Migration says 374 migrants have died so far this year while trying to reach Greece.


1:30 p.m.

A Turkish news agency says at least 11 migrants have drowned while trying to cross into Greece.

The private Dogan news agency says the bodies were found on Monday near the Aegean coastal resort of Dikili, a crossing point for migrants trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos from Turkey.

The agency says three other migrants were rescued. There was no information on their nationalities.

The International Organization for Migration says 374 migrants have died so far this year while trying to reach Greece.


11:55 a.m.

Dozens of Greek riot police have been deployed to a demonstration organized by the extreme right Golden Dawn party against plans to build a new transit camp for refugees and migrants near Athens.

Four of the party’s 18 lawmakers were present at the rally Monday outside the port of Perama, about 15 kilometers (9.5 miles) west of Athens, where the government is planning to build the camp with the help of the armed forces.

About 150 people staged a counter-demonstration near the site.

Greece is under pressure from the European Union to complete screening centers on five islands and increase its capacity to house asylum-seekers and detain migrants facing deportation.


11:50 a.m.

A retired general who once led the French Foreign Legion will appear in court after he was arrested for taking part in a banned anti-migrant protest in Calais.

Christian Piquemal and around 150 militants from anti-Islam and anti-immigration group Pegida gathered Saturday in the northern French city to chant slogans such as “We must not let Calais die. Calais is part of France.”

Police dispersed the rowdy protest with tear gas.

Calais has been a focal point for migrants who want to slip into Britain via the Channel Tunnel. Several thousand have been living there in slums for months.

The demonstration was one of several around Europe Saturday amid growing tensions over the massive influx of asylum-seekers to the continent.



German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other Turkish officials for talks on reducing the influx of migrants to Europe.

Turkey, a key country on the migrant route to Europe, is central to Merkel’s diplomatic efforts to reduce the flow.

Her talks in Ankara Monday come as Turkey faces mounting pressure to open its border to up to 35,000 Syrians who have massed along the frontier fleeing an onslaught by government forces.

Turkey, home 2.5 million Syrian refugees, says it has reached its capacity to absorb refugees but has indicated that it will continue to provide refuge.

Turkey agreed in November to fight smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration. The EU has pledged 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to help improve the condition of refugees.