Turkey threatens EU with wave of refugees
“If the violence towards the people of Idlib does not stop, this number will increase even more,” Erdogan told an event. “In that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its own.
Turkey wants the refugees to return to a “safe zone” in northeast Syria controversially seized from Kurdish forces in October.
Erdogan demanded international backing for the proposal, saying he would otherwise be forced to “open the gates” for Syrians to reach Greece.
“The negative impact of the pressure we will be subjected to will be something that all European nations, especially Greece, will also feel,” the populist president added.
Despite being on opposing sides of the Syrian civil war, Turkey and Russia have held talks on the conflict.
Russia and Iran have backed the Assad regime in Damascus while Turkey has backed the Syrian rebels.
A Turkish delegation is in Moscow this week in a purported attempt to end Russian attacks on Idlib.
Russia and Syra both deny allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilians and say they are fighting Islamist militants.
“It’s a tragic situation for civilians remaining in the city since Russian jets are hitting any convoy that leaves the city, while those who were able to reach areas closer to the border have nowhere to shelter,” said Mohamad Rasheed, an activist in Syria.
A ceasefire was negotiated by Russia and Turkey to halt a Syrian regime assault on Idlib in August. But skirmishes and bombardments continue on most days.
Turkey has about 3.7 million registered Syrian refugees and has said it cannot cope with any more arrivals from its war-torn neighbour.
The Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a Turkish aid organisation, said around 120,000 migrants were heading for Turkey.
Ankara has prevented Syrians from heading toward the European Union in exchange for billions from Brussels.
Erdogan says Turkey is still owed €6 billion from the EU.
“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,” said Erdogan defiantly.
Idlib province hosts militant groups and a Turkish security presence.
The Syrian civil war is in its ninth year. Picture credit: Pexels