State Dept. says it ‘did not intend to single out any particular country as a destination for refugees’
WASHINGTON (AA) – The US walked back on Wednesday remarks from senior officials regarding Afghan refugee flows amid a diplomatic row with Turkey, and voiced regret about the comments.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington “did not intend to single out any particular country as a destination for refugees.”
“We do regret the concerns that statements have raised regarding the potential travel of Afghans to Turkey, and we reiterate our gratitude to Turkey for its substantial humanitarian efforts in hosting over 4 million refugees, more than any other country in the world,” Price told reporters during a news conference.
“It is not the US government’s policy to encourage or to direct individuals seeking protection to specific safe havens, nor did we in this case,” he added.
Turkey said Tuesday that it would not accept the “irresponsible decision taken by the US” regarding Afghan refugees after a senior Biden administration official told reporters on a background briefing that it is important for countries neighboring Afghanistan to ensure “their borders remain open.”
“Obviously, if people go north or if they go via Iran to Turkey – we’ve already seen some arrivals in Turkey – that people have an opportunity both to enter the country as well as to register with either the government or with UNHCR,” the official said as he addressed the expansion of the US refugee program for Afghans.
The State Department did not respond to multiple requests from Anadolu Agency to explain the comments.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic responded to the official’s remarks by saying, “it is unacceptable to seek a solution in our country without our consent, instead of finding a solution among the countries in the region.”
“No one should expect the Turkish nation to bear the burden of the migration crises caused by the decisions of third countries in our region,” he said.