European Council President Donald Tusk has stated the EU will not accept a recent threat by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to send 3.6 million refugees to Europe if the EU labels his country’s ongoing incursion in northeastern Syria as an “invasion,” Reuters reported on Friday.
Tusk on Friday underlined during a visit to EU member Cyprus that Turkey’s military offensive in Syria, which started on Wednesday, was destabilizing the region.
“Turkey must understand that our main concern is that their actions may lead to another humanitarian catastrophe, which would be unacceptable,” Tusk explained.
“Nor will we ever accept that refugees are weaponized and used to blackmail us. That is why I consider yesterday’s threats made by President Erdogan totally out of place,” he added.
Tusk held forth that Turkey should halt the unilateral military operation and address its security concerns through political and diplomatic means.
“A military intervention will only make matters worse. Instead of creating stability, it will create even more instability in the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering, cause further displacement and threaten progress achieved by the Global Coalition against Daesh [the Islamic State],” Tusk elaborated.
Ankara’s military operation in the southeast of Syria mainly aims to wipe out Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, an important US ally in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region, and create a “safe zone” to resettle some three million Syrian refugees.
The YPG is labeled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, due to their ties to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants who have waged a separatist insurgency inside the country since 1984.
Erdogan’s threat to allow millions of refugees to head to Europe came on Thursday as a response to the mounting condemnation from the European governments of Turkey’s long-threatened military operation in Syria.
“If you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple: we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you,” Erdogan on Thursday said.
Turkey agreed, under a 2016 deal with the EU, to prevent refugees from leaving towards Europe in exchange for €3 billion and visa-free travel for its citizens. However, Ankara says the money was slow to materialize and paltry next to the $40 billion it claims it has spent.