Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday claimed that over 18,000 refugees had crossed the western border that it shares with Greece after Ankara opened its gate amid a new military campaign in north-western Syria. According to reports, Erdogan did not provide any evidence to support his claim but said that Turkey is not obliged to look after and feed so many refugees.
Erdogan's claim came after chaos sparked at the western border where Greek troops prevented migrants from entering Europe by firing teargas and stun grenades.
Erdogan had long threatened to open its western border allowing migrants to cross to Europe, with which it had signed an accord in 2016 promising to prevent migration in return of financial support. Erdogan complained that funds meant to support the refugees were arriving too slowly from Brussels. However, media reports suggest that the new shift in Ankara's policy is because Turkey is trying to secure support from NATO and the European Union over its new military campaign in north-western Idlib province, Syria's last rebel-held region.
According to reports, the Turkish military is supporting the rebels in Idlib who are facing an onslaught from Assad's regime forces that are backed by Russian airpower.
As per reports, pro-Syrian government forces launched an offensive in Idlib against the rebel fighters, forcing people to cross the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey launched the new military campaign in Idlib after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike on Thursday night.
Ankara, which is already providing Syrian refugees shelter in Turkey saw a new wave of migration after the airstrikes. As per reports, Turkey on Friday ordered its police, coastguard and border guards to stand down, meaning a passage for migrants to cross to Europe. Turkey reportedly provided buses to the migrants to help them cross over to Europe.
Erdogan wants Syrian troops to withdraw beyond the borders that Turkey and Russia outlined in a 2018 agreement. Back in 2018, Turkey and Russia collaborated together to set-up a 'de-escalation zone' in Idlib in order to stem the violence in the region. The latest offensive launched by the Syrian government threatens the fragile agreement between Ankara and Moscow. Erdogan had earlier warned the Syrian government and had set a deadline to withdraw until the end of February.
(with inputs from agencies)
Lead Image Credit: AP