Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared Greece’s treatment of refugees with the Nazis and refused to close its borders until the European Union fulfils all his demands. In a televised speech on March 11, Erdogan said that Turkey will continue the practice on borders connected to the European bloc until all the expectations, including free movement, updating of the customs union and financial assistance are met.
Recently, Turkey reopened its border for refugees trying to enter other European countries while Greece tear-gassed thousands of them to deny entry. Greece has also been accused of a violent crackdown on refugees and snatching away the belongings migrants if they somehow make it across the border.
"There is no difference between what the Nazis did and those images from the Greek border,” said Erdogan in the speech.
Turkey claims that it has not received all of the six billion euros promised in the 2016 deal with Brussels under which Ankara agreed to stop migrant influx in Europe. Erdogan’s decision to open the borders for the refugees is strategically aimed at pressurising Europe to provide greater assistance with the Syrian conflict. Turkey launched an offensive in Syria after US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw American troops from Syrian soil. Turkish troops and Russia-backed Syrian regime forces have been in an armed conflict to retake northwestern Idlib province.
Last week, Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike launched by Syrian regime forces and Ankara retaliated by “neutralising” 309 Syrian troops, said Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on February 28. The former chief of the Turkish General Staff claimed that Turkey destroyed five Syrian military helicopter, 23 tanks, 23 howitzers, and two air defence systems.
Akar said that the attack on Turkish forces was launched despite the fact that Ankara had shared the coordinates of its troops with Kremlin. The Defence Minister alleged that Syria continued strikes against Turkish forces and targeted ambulances even after the warnings. Akar dismissed the claims of the presence of Syrian militants saying they didn’t have any other armed groups in the premises.
However, Erdogan visited Russia on March 5 to meet President Vladimir Putin and both parties reached an agreement on a ceasefire in Idlib. “At 00.01 tonight, as in, from midnight, the ceasefire will be put in place,” said Erdogan said after holding talks with Putin.
(With inputs from agencies)