Migrant crisis could ‘tarnish’ Europe’s image: Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo

Jose Manuel Garcia-MargalloSpanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo warned on Monday that the migrant crisis could “tarnish” Europe’s image and pledged his country would take in refugees despite its economic woes.

“From an ethical and practical point of view, so as not to tarnish the image of Europe and therefore favour extremism, we must make the maximum effort” to help refugees, Garcia-Margallo said in Iran.

He said Spain would do its part “to welcome a maximum number of refugees, offer them a roof over their heads and social services” despite its financial difficulties.

Garcia-Margallo did not say how many refugees Spain was willing to receive.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has called on the EU to take in at least 200,000 asylum seekers.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker was expected to unveil a plan on Wednesday to relocate 120,000 refugees in EU countries under a mandatory quota system.

Under Juncker’s proposal, Germany and France will take half of the refugees to relieve the burden on Greece, Italy and Hungary, while Spain will take almost 15,000, a European source told AFP.

The UN says half of the refugees have fled Syria, where anti-government protests that erupted in March 2011 have spiralled into a complex civil war that has killed more than 240,000 people.

Speaking at a joint new conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Spain’s top diplomat called for a “rational solution” to end the Syrian conflict through “dialogue”.

Zarif, whose country is the Syrian regime’s key regional ally, also called for a “political” solution.

“The problem in Syria must be solved in a political way. There is no military solution,” he said.

But Zarif insisted that the Syrian people alone must decide the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Those who have set conditions… about the Syrian president are responsible for the war in Syria and the blood being shed there,” Zarif said, without naming any group or individual.

Garcia-Margallo later met with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who on Twitter hailed “the strong potential for economic, cultural and political cooperation” between their countries.

European leaders have streamed to Tehran with an eye on economic deals since a nuclear deal was sealed by Iran and world powers on July 14 scaling back the country’s controversial atomic programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

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