Migrant Crisis: Turkey curtails flights to Belarus

Migrant Crisis: Turkey curtails flights to Belarus

Turkey has on Friday, banned Syrian, Yemeni and Iraqi citizens from flights to Minsk, potentially closing off one of the main routes that the EU says Belarus has used to fly in migrants by the thousand to engineer a humanitarian crisis on its frontier.

It would be recalled that the EU had accused Belarus of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack” on the bloc – distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and pushing them to cross the border illegally.

Brussels may impose new sanctions on Belarus and airlines it blames for ferrying the migrants, as soon as Monday.

EU officials welcomed Friday’s announcement by Turkey’s Civil Aviation General Directorate that Syrians, Yemenis and Iraqis would not be permitted to buy tickets to Belarus or board flights there from Turkish territory.

Turkey has denied playing a direct role by allowing its territory to be used to ferry in migrants.

But Minsk airport’s website listed six commercial flights arriving from Istanbul on Friday, the most from any city outside the former Soviet Union.

European officials have repeatedly said their best hope of resolving the crisis is to stop would-be migrants in the Middle East from boarding flights for Belarus at the source, and that diplomats were negotiating in the region to achieve this.

“These contacts are already showing fruit,” a European Commission spokesperson said.

The EU spokesperson said Iraqi Airways had also agreed to halt flights to Belarus.

A spokesperson for the airline said all airlines in Iraq had already suspended flights to Belarus several months ago at the request of the Iraqi government.

Belarus denies that it has fomented the crisis, but has also said it cannot help resolve it unless Europe lifts existing sanctions.

The EU imposed several rounds of measures in response to President Alexander Lukashenko’s violent crackdown on mass street protests against his rule in 2020.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia, threatened this week to cut off Russian gas supplies delivered to Europe through Belarusian territory.

On Friday, the Kremlin appeared to distance itself from that threat, saying it was not consulted in advance of Lukashenko’s remarks and it would fulfil its gas delivery contracts.

 
Reuters/Nnenna.

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Migrant Crisis: Turkey curtails flights to Belarus

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