TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Europe Wednesday to take in more migrants and refugees from Syria and Iraq, saying his own country has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis and has been sheltering about 2 million people.
Turkey has spent $5.6 billion to care for 1.7 million Syrians and 300,000 Iraqis living in refugee camps or in Turkish cities, Erdogan said during a visit to Albania.
Speaking after meeting with his Albanian counterpart Bujar Nishani, Erdogan said developed countries should do their "duty" and offer solutions for the migration crisis.
We all witness "how the immigrants are dying in the Mediterranean and elsewhere," Erdogan said. Hundreds of migrants have died so far this year in sea crossings trying to reach Europe. Most have perished when their overcrowded boats overturned or sank as they sailed from Libya to Italy.
"Can we be insensitive to these homeless, unsheltered poor people?" Erdogan asked. "Shouldn't the developed countries offer a solution to these people? They have their obligations too. Everybody should do their own duty."
Erdogan's one-day visit to Albania was to focus on economic ties, and the president was accompanied by a delegation of about 100 businessmen. Both Erdogan and Nishani urged their governments and businesses to increase trade.
Turkey is one of Albania's main trading partners and investors.
Erdogan said Turkey wanted to more than double the $430 million annual trade exchange, adding that some 300 Turkish companies have invested $2.7 billion in Albania in infrastructure, the steel industry, banking, energy and telecommunication.
Albania has close ties with Turkey after the Ottoman Empire kept the tiny western Balkan country under occupation from the 15th century until 1912 when it declared independence. Turkey was a strong promoter of Albania's NATO membership in 2009 and continues to train Albanian army officers.
During his visit, Erdogan was to inaugurate the start of construction on a 20,000-square-meter mosque in the capital Tirana.
Albania's 3.2 million population is predominantly Muslim, with smaller Orthodox and Catholic communities.