Turkey cannot handle a new influx of refugees, who are fleeing Syria’s Idlib region where is recently under Russian attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.
Speaking at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace, Erdogan again threatened the European Union (EU) member states with the impact of such a migrant wave as soon as they do not try to stop the violence in Syria.
“Due to recent atrocities, there has again been chaos in Idlib where 4 million people live. More than 80,000 Idlib people who escape from [Russian] bombardment have started to migrate toward our border. The number will increase even more if the violence toward the people of Idlib does not come to a halt,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish president also claimed that his country was doing its best to put an end to Russian offensive, referring specifically to an official visit by a Turkish delegation to Moscow on Monday to discuss Syria.
Erdogan emphasized European negligence over the issue, warning of the consequences.
“In such a case [influx], Turkey will not carry this migration burden on its own. The negative impact of the pressure that will be affecting us will also be felt by all European countries, notably Greece,” Turkey’s Erdogan warned.
Speaking at the Global Forum on Refugees in Geneva last week, Erdogan accused the US of not guarding Syria’s children but of trying to protect the country’s oil fields.
The president was referring to the US withdrawal from the disputed areas to the oil-rich regions before the latest Turkish incursion against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Democratic Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as a terror organization.
In October, Ankara launched an operation against the YPG in northeastern Syria, aiming to clear it from the border region.
However, the US argues that Turkey’s offensive in the region has once again given rise to fears of the revival of the Islamic State (ISIS), which was defeated in March this year with the help of the YPG. Besides guarding against ISIS, the US administration was also trying to allow the YPG to extract oil to earn revenue.
Erdogan also aims to set up a “safe zone” in the region to resettle Syrian refugees living in Turkey.
In his Geneva speech, Erdogan offered to use those Syrian oil reserves under the YPG control to fund construction projects in the planned zone.
Previously, Erdogan has threatened many times to open Turkey’s borders for Syrian migrants to Europe if the EU fails to help Ankara in hosting the refugees.
However, Turkey’s strongman has not received any backing for his calls and plans but has instead faced condemnation over his unilateral decisions on the region, such as Turkey’s military offensives.
“We call on European countries to use their energy to stop the massacre in Idlib, rather than trying to corner Turkey for the legitimate steps it took in Syria,” Erdogan said on Sunday, referring to Turkey’s three military operations into Syria.
Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu (AA) reported earlier on Sunday that a total of 205,000 civilians had been forced to leave Idlib since November due to the intensifying attacks, with many of them fleeing toward areas in Syria that Turkey seized in its military operations, or to other parts of Idlib.
Turkey, which is already home to over 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country since the civil war erupted in 2011, has been facing a new wave of another refugee influx since April when Russia-backed Syrian regime launched new attacks on Turkey-backed anti-government forces in Idlib, the last significant swathe of Syrian territory that still serves as a rebel stronghold.
Despite a ceasefire deal struck in September 2018 between Russia and Turkey, some 1,300 civilians have reportedly been killed in the Idlib de-escalation zone since April. Many of them were killed due to Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes on residential areas, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
On Tuesday, the US Senate approved new sanctions to be implemented within six months on Syria, Iran, and Russia as the three are allegedly committing war crimes in the region. The sanctions target Syrian regime officials, civilian and military leaders, and anyone who participated in the atrocities, such as the mercenary groups contracted by the trio’s militaries.
However, the trio denies the allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and argue that they are fighting al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militants.