Turkey, with more dead troops, says it won't stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe
Turkey, faced with a possible new wave of Syrian migrants and dozens more dead Turkish soldiers in Idlib, will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said as President Tayyip Erdogan chaired an emergency meeting, Trend reports citing Reuters.
An air strike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwest Idlib region killed 33 Turkish soldiers and seriously wounded others, the local governor in Turkey’s southeastern province of Hatay said separately early on Friday.
Nearly a million civilians have been displaced in Idlib near the Turkish border since December as Russia-backed Syrian government forces seized territory from Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, marking the worst humanitarian crisis of the country’s nine-year war.
The threat to open the way for refugees to Europe would, if executed, reverse a pledge Turkey made to the European Union in 2016 and could quickly draw Western powers into the standoff over Idlib and stalled negotiations between Ankara and Moscow.
In anticipation of the imminent arrival of refugees from Idlib, Turkish police, coast guard and border security officials have been ordered to stand down on refugees’ land and sea crossings, the Turkish official told Reuters.
“We have decided, effectively immediately, not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “All refugees, including Syrians, are now welcome to cross into the European Union.”
The burden of hosting refugees “is too heavy for any single country to carry,” the official said.
Turkey hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees and has repeated it cannot handle more. Under a deal agreed in 2016, the European Union has provided billions of euros in aid in return for Ankara agreeing to stem the influx of migrants into Europe.