BRUSSELS Ambitious Turkish proposals to help the European Union to confront its migration crisis came too late for EU leaders to agree them on Monday, leaving diplomats to wade through the details and seek more talks with Ankara later this month.
Europe's hopes that Brussels and Ankara were nearing a deal for Turkey to take back migrants reaching Greece faded late on Monday night after Turkey made a last-minute call for more money and quicker access to European visas in return for its help, measures some leaders said they needed more time to consider.
European Commission officials said there had been a breakthrough with Turkey, but Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel summed up the state of play more diplomatically, saying that European Council President Donald Tusk "will take forward the proposals and work out the details with the Turkish side," before the next summit on March 17-18 in Brussels.
Putting aside concerns about Turkey's increasingly authoritarian government, the European Union is looking to Turkey to help stem the asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East that have flooded into Europe since the start of 2015, causing huge political and humanitarian strains.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu underscored how indispensable Turkey had become for Europe, driving a hard bargain for taking back Syrians who reach Greek islands.
Cyprus was immediately uneasy about allowing Turkey to open more negotiating chapters in Ankara's bid to join the European Union, while a final statement by all EU leaders and Davutoglu was unable to get into details of how to grant Turkey more EU funds to help absorb more refugees.
French President Francois Hollande said the European Union could offer more than the current 3 billion euros pledged to Turkey.
"One of the key problems in the negotiations have been the Turkish-Cypriot problems," said one diplomat, referring to the conflict-divided east Mediterranean island, which has a long list of grievances against Turkey, its northern neighbour.
(Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio, Robert-Jan Bartunek, Renee Maltezou and Robin Emmott in Brussels and Kylie Maclellan in London)
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Updated Date: Mar 08, 2016 07:30 AM