BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has promised German Chancellor Angela Merkel to “substantially” support efforts to ease the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, a German government spokesman said on Thursday.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has called for “billions of euros” in new money to be transferred to states that border Syria, saying Europe had to realize that solving the crisis would cost “a lot more” than previously envisaged.
Obama and Merkel spoke by telephone on Thursday evening and the chancellor set out the goals of the planned donor conference for Syrian refugees which she will co-host in London on Feb. 4, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
“The president promised that the U.S. government would contribute substantially,” Seibert said in a statement.
The spokesman added Obama and Merkel agreed that there could only be a political solution for the Syrian crisis, as well as for the stand-off in Ukraine.
Merkel is under pressure to limit the number of new migrants, which reached 1.1 million last year alone, eroding her popularity and fuelling support for an anti-immigration party.
Leaders meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos said on Thursday that the European Union could unravel if member states fail to agree a common approach to the refugee crisis and security challenges in the next few months.
Merkel has promised to “measurably reduce” arrivals this year, but has refused to introduce a cap, saying it would be impossible to enforce without closing German borders.
Instead, she has tried to convince European partners to take on quotas of refugees, pushed for reception centers to be built on Europe’s external borders, and led an EU campaign to convince Turkey to keep refugees from entering the bloc.
EU leaders have pledged 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to Turkey to help care for Syrian refugees, as part of measures aimed at reducing the numbers of refugees leaving Turkey and heading for Europe.
However, Italy has blocked this funding, senior EU officials said.
German-Turkish government consultations on Friday in Berlin are expected to address the issue of helping Turkey with the cost of hosting migrants.
Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Ruth Pitchford