Erdogan: Turkey cannot handle latest wave of Syrian migrants

Erdogan: Turkey cannot handle latest wave of Syrian migrants
Erdogan: Turkey cannot handle latest wave of Syrian migrants

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Sunday that his country could not handle the latest wave of migrants from Syria, and said that European nations will bear the brunt of the crisis if the violence in the Idlib province does not stop.

Over the weekend, thousands of people fled the wartorn province in the north-west of Syria. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said that since November, 205,000 people had been displaced from their homes in the province due to attacks.

Idlib, the country’s last major rebel-held territory, is home to about three million people, including many displaced by years of violence in other parts of Syria. It has been the focus of a pro-government bombardment since late April.

On Saturday, air strikes by the regime and its ally Russia killed 12 civilians and injured 36 others, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In a speech at an event in Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul on Sunday, Mr Erdogan said that more than 80,000 refugees were fleeing Idlib for Turkey.

“If the violence toward the people of Idlib does not stop, this number will increase even more. In that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its own,” he said.

“The negative impact of the pressure we will be subjected to will be something that all European nations, especially Greece, will also feel,” he said, and warned that a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis would become inevitable.

Turkey hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees and Mr Erdogan has told the rest of Europe repeatedly that it will not be able to take many more migrants. On Tuesday, the Turkish leader accused the European Union of failing to fulfil its financial promises to support Syrians in his country.

Domestic attitude towards migrants in Turkey has also become more hostile. Mr Erdogan has said that 1 million Syrian refugees would returned to their homeland in “a very short period of time”.

In September 2018, Russia and Turkey agreed to work to make Idlib a de-escalation zone. A ceasefire was also brokered in the province in August, but it has been violated repeatedly.

UN agencies and war monitors have said that hundreds have been killed in the province this year after attacks on residential areas by Russia and the Syrian army.

The UK-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 45 civilians, including 11 women and seven children, have been killed in the latest escalation, with 120 more injured.

Both Russia and the Syrian regime deny bombing civilian areas, and say they are fighting Al Qaeda inspired extremists.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime controls 70 per cent of the country, but not Idlib, and has vowed to regain control of it.

Mr Erdogan said on Sunday said Turkey was working with Russia in an effort to stop the violence in Idlib. A Turkish delegation is due to travel to Moscow to discuss Syria on Monday.

"We will determine the steps we will take according to the results," he said in his speech in the Turkish capital.

Updated: December 23, 2019 06:08 AM

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