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Iran Press TV

Erdogan threatens EU with opening border to millions of refugees

Iran Press TV

Thu Oct 10, 2019 01:56PM

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the European Union that Ankara will allow millions of refugees to make their way toward Europe if the bloc keeps criticizing Turkey's military operation in northeast Syria.

"Hey EU, wake up. I say it again: if you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple: we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you," Erdogan said during a meeting with provincial heads of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on Thursday.

The refugees are the result of an eight-year conflict in Syria, which both Turkey and the EU have helped to flare on.

Back in 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement, under which Ankara agreed to prevent refugees from leaving towards Europe in exchange for six billion euros and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.

During the past three years, however, the Turkish government has been criticizing Brussels for being sluggish in providing the money and not doing more to help with the broader refugee problem.

Addressing the European bloc, Erdogan said, "You have never been sincere", adding, "Now they say they will withhold three billion euros from us. Have you ever kept any promise you gave us so far? No."

Erdogan's comments came a day after the EU condemned the Turkish aggression in northeastern Syria, calling on Ankara to immediately stop its operation in the Arab country.

"If Turkey's plan is to create a so-called 'safe zone' don't expect the EU to pay for any of it," said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also accused Ankara of "willingly risking further destabilizing the region and a resurgence of" the Daesh terrorist group.

Early on Wednesday, Turkish military forces and Turkish-backed militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeast Syria in a declared attempt to eliminate Kurdish militants from the so-called People's Protection Units (YPG) to push them away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

The YPG constitutes the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants.

Erdogan noted that 109 "terrorists" had been killed since the start of the incursion.

"We have a message to those who were forced to join the YPG ranks: If you leave now... our arms are wide open," the Turkish leader further said.

Ankara says one of its goals in the cross-border incursion is to form a "safe zone" to which at least one million refugees from the Arab country can return, after the years-long presence of refugees in Turkey became an increasingly political liability.

"For those who want to return to their country but don't have a home left anymore, we plan to build settlements for one million people, with international financing," Erdogan said.

The Turkish president also sought to relieve concerns about Daesh prisoners currently held by Kurdish forces.

"Those that need to be kept in jail we will keep in jail. We will return foreigners to their home countries if they accept them back," Erdogan added.

The Turkish military has so far launched two cross-border incursions in northern Syria, namely "Euphrates Shield" in August 2016 and "Olive Branch" in January 2018 with the declared aim of eradicating Kurdish militants and Daesh terrorists near Turkey's borders.

Syria has condemned Turkey's cross-border aggression, calling it a flagrant violation of the Arab country's sovereignty.

Turkey says offensive will not go beyond 30km into Syria

Later on Thursday, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the country's military incursion will not go further than 30km into northeast Syria.

Speaking to CNN Turk, Cavusoglu said the security threat, which Turkey faces from the presence of Kurdish militants along its border, would be eliminated if the area was cleared of militants, Reuters reported.

"When we go 30km deep in the safe zone, terror there will be removed," he said.

Cavusoglu added that his country has the right to use the air space over Syria as part of its campaign.

"We have the right to use that air space," he said, noting, "That air space does not belong to the United States. It has no right to control that air space."

Cavusoglu also warned that Turkey would retaliate if the United States imposed sanctions over its military incursion into northeast Syria.

Kremlin says understands Turkey's security worries amid Syria op

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on Thursday that it is concerned by the situation in Syria's northeast, adding, however, that Moscow sympathizes with Ankara's security concerns in the area.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said it was important that Syria's territorial integrity be respected and that the operation did no harm to political attempts to settle Syria's eight-year civil war, Reuters reported.

Macron: Turkey operation risks boosting Daesh in Syria

In another development, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Turkey on Thursday to immediately end its military operation in northern Syria, saying it risks boosting Daesh terrorists in the country.

"I condemn vehemently the unilateral military offensive in Syria and I urge Turkey to put an end to it as quickly as possible," Macron was quoted by AFP as telling reporters in the French city of Lyon.

"Turkey is today forgetting that the priority of the international community in Syria is the fight against Daesh and terrorism," he said, adding, "It is creating a humanitarian risk for millions of people."

The French president said, Turkey risks "helping Daesh to rebuild its caliphate. And this responsibility is the responsibility of Turkey alone in front of the rest of the international community."

France, Italy summon Turkish ambassadors over Syria op

In a related development, France's Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the Turkish ambassador to Paris over Ankara's military operation in northern Syria, a diplomatic source was quoted by AFP as saying.

"The ambassador in France was summoned in the early afternoon," the source said as the Turkish operation against Syrian Kurdish region entered its second day.

Ambassador Ismail Hakki Musa confirmed that he was summoned, saying, "I am (summoned), I'm going later on."

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had said on Wednesday that the assault against the Kurdish regions in northern Syria "must stop."

"It calls into question the security and humanitarian efforts of the coalition against Daesh and risks undermining Europeans' security," he said in a tweet.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio also said on Thursday that the country had summoned the Turkish ambassador over the ongoing offensive in northern Syria.

The ministry called for an end to unilateral actions, noting that the only lasting solution to the crisis in Syria was through the United Nations.

Sisi: Turkey op endangers security, stability of entire region

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also reacted to Turkey's operation in northern Syria by noting that the military offensive poses a grave threat to security and stability of the entire region.

A statement released by his office said that during a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Sisi "affirmed Egypt's rejection of the Turkish aggression on Syria's territory and sovereignty."

Sisi also warned that Turkey's military operation would have "adverse effects" on the "stability and security of the entire region."

Syrian Kurds urge EU to pull envoys over Turkey op

Also on Thursday, Kurdish leaders in northern Syria called on European countries to withdraw their ambassadors from Turkey in protest at Ankara's military operation, AFP reported.

A delegation representing the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) traveled to Brussels to urge the EU to take concrete measures against Turkey's aggression.

"We want an urgent intervention on this crisis, and these attacks should be stopped quickly. Air space should be closed for Turkish flights so that air attacks can be stopped," a senior SDC figure, Ilham Ahmed, told reporters in Brussels, adding, "All European states should freeze their relations by withdrawing their ambassadors from Turkey immediately."

Ahmed also criticized the withdrawal of US troops from the border region earlier this week, saying, "If American forces were there, Turkey would not attack us, but unfortunately with the American withdrawal they put us in danger."

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