Erdogan threatens to 'open gates' to Europe for Syrian refugees



ISTANBUL, Ergin Hava and Ella Joyner (dpa)- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday threatened to open the border to Europe for Syrian refugees unless Ankara gets enough international aid and support for a planned "safe zone" in Syria's north.
"We will have to open the gates," Erdogan told his party members in Ankara, adding that Turkey "did not receive the necessary support from the world, particularly Europe" to shoulder the Syrian refugee burden.
Turkey cannot "handle the burden on its own," Erdogan added.




Turkey is home to the largest refugee population in the world. It hosts 4 million refugees, including more than 3.6 million from Syria.
A spokeswoman for the European Union, which struck a deal with Ankara in 2016 to stop migrants passing through its territory to Europe in exchange for billions in financial aid, underlined the "substantial support" the bloc already gives.
"To date the EU has provided 5.6 billion euros (6.2 billion dollars) out of the 6 billion that was agreed," EU migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertraud said on Thursday in response to Erdogan's comments.
Turkey now also wants to create a safe zone near its border with Syria by the end of September, Erdogan said, citing a "threat of millions of new refugees" from Syria's Idlib province.
Bertraud declined to comment on the Turkish premier's proposal.
According to the UN, more than 570,000 people have fled the largely opposition-held Idlib region along the Turkish border since the Syrian government started its offensive in April.
Ankara is working with Washington to establish the safe zone in northern Syria in order to remove the Syrian Kurdish forces there, currently backed by the US, and stem the flow of refugees into Turkey.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG, which controls large areas of northern Syria at its border, a terrorist group linked to insurgents at home. It is not clear whether the US could change its stance on the YPG, which has been the most effective group in fighting the Islamic State in Syria.
Also unclear is who would control the zone or how big it would be. Turkey is prepared to act alone if the deal fails, Erdogan added.
Erdogan said his government aims to resettle in the safe zone "at least 1 million" Syrian refugees.
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Friday, September 6th 2019
Ergin Hava and Ella Joyner (dpa)
           


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