Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Thursday that Ankara may have to allow Syrian refugees to leave for European countries if it doesn’t receive international support to deal with migrants.
“We will be forced to open the gates. We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone”, he said.
In his speech, the Turkish president reaffirmed his determination to establish a “safe zone” in northeast Syria together with the United States by the end of September, however, noting that Ankara was ready to act alone if required.
Erdogan said last week that Turkey would not tolerate any delays in creating a “safe zone” in Syria and would launch its own operation in the country’s north if negotiations with the US don’t bring any results.
On 7 August, Ankara and Washington agreed to create a safe zone to the east of the Euphrates River that would serve as a buffer zone between the Turkish border and Syrian areas controlled by the US-backed Kurdish militias, which Turkey considers to be terrorists.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011, Turkey has hosted about 4 million registered Syrians, with the Syrian newspaper al-Watan citing local migration authorities as saying in April that over 3,600 Syrian refugees had returned home from Turkey since the beginning of 2019.
In March 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement to take tougher measures against human smugglers and stop illegal migration through the Aegean Sea, with Brussels pledging €6 billion (approximately $6.6 billion) to help Turkey cope with millions of refugees in the country.
At the beginning of 2019, Erdogan slammed the EU for failing to comply with the agreement, and said that Turkey had spent $35 billion on hosting some 4 million refugees. In July, the European Commission adopted a new set of assistance measures of €1.41 billion ($1.5 billion) to ensure EU support for refugees and host communities in Turkey.