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Turkey will receive 3 billion euros ($3.27 billion) from the EU within the next year to spend on Syrian refugees, Turkey’s EU minister said Wednesday.

Volkan Bozkir said Turkey is negotiating with the EU on how to spend the money. “We want to decide on our own where to spend it. Talks are underway about that,” he said at a meeting of Anadolu Agency Editors’ Desk in Ankara.

Turkey is the largest refugee-hosting country in the world and shelters 2.3 million Syrians.

Since the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011, Turkey has spent around 8 billion euros ($8.73 billion) on providing for the refugee population, Bozkir said. Around 60,000 Syrian children have been born in Turkey and 450,000 are being schooled.

Bozkir, who also acts as Turkey’s chief negotiator with the EU, warned that Syrian refugees who had travelled to Europe would be the responsibility of EU member states.

Under a deal agreed last month, Turkey agreed to clamp down on the trafficking of refugees from its territory to Greece and take back refugees who have crossed its borders in exchange for financing.

The agreement also saw Turkey offered visa-free travel for its nationals within Europe. Bozkir said Turkey is expected to introduce 72 “adjustments” before this could be implemented.

The minister said the deal, as well as Turkey’s key role in the EU economy and the fight against terrorism had regenerated relations with the EU and Turkey’s bid to join the 28-nation bloc.

“There is no change in Turkey’s stance,” he said. “For us, EU membership has always been a strategic objective.”

On Monday, the EU opened a new chapter in the accession process. Chapter 17, which aims to bring Turkey in line with EU economic and monetary policy, is the first to be opened in two years.

To join the EU, Turkey, which applied for membership in 1987, must comply with 35 chapters of policy reform. The latest development is the 15th to be opened for discussion.

Bozkir has previously said he hopes for five or six chapters to be opened by the end of 2016.

In a further development, the minister said the suggestion of “privileged partnership” status for Turkey was no longer an option.

Germany had previously suggested Turkey could adopt this model instead of full EU membership.

Turkey and the EU aim to double their trade to $300 billion in the next two years, Bozkir added.

Bozkir also said he sent a letter which includes 10 official arrangements about the 72 “adjustments” to EU commissioners on Tuesday, adding that he was now awaiting EUs response.

He also said that once the Cyprus issue is resolved, 13 more suspended chapters in Turkey’s accession talks may become qualified to be opened.

The Cyprus issue remains a major obstacle to Turkey’s EU accession plans, as several chapters, including the chapter on energy and judicial rights remain blocked by the Greek Cypriot administration.

I definitely believe that the Cyprus issue can be solved, Bozkir added.

The EU minister also said that a meeting will be held with some EU countries about the Syrian refugees. Turkey cannot guarantee ending the refugee influx to Europe. Here, the key topic will be whether the crisis in Syria will end or not, he said.

SOURCE: http://aa.com.tr/en/turkey/-turkey-to-get-3-billion-euros-for-refugees-within-year/491862

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