At least 13,000 migrants tried to cross the Turkey-Greece border after Ankara officially opened its western border with Europe. According to reports, several hundred people reached three Greek islands by boat while some even tried to swim across the Evros river to reach the country. Greek police reportedly fired tear gas and stun grenades in an attempt to hold back the migrants who in return hurled stones at the forces.
According to reports, Turkey opened its western border for migrants after accusing the European Union of slow fund release to support the Syrian refugee influx in the country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip 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 for financial support. 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.
However, some media reports suggest that the new shift in Turkey's policy is because Ankara wants to secure NATO and European Union's support over it's latest military campaign in the north-western Syrian province of Idlib, where it backs the rebel forces fighting against the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad. According to reports, Assad's forces backed by Russian air power launched an offensive attack against rebel fighters in their last stronghold in Idlib, which triggered a new wave of migration into Turkey.
Turkey launched the new military campaign in Idlib dubbed operation “Spring Shield” after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike on Thursday night. As per reports, 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, setting a deadline to withdraw until the end of February.