Erdogan Calls for European Support in Syria, EU Refuses to “Succumb to Blackmail”

  • Tens of thousands of people have flocked to Greece since Turkey announced its borders would be opened on Friday.
  • French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday that Europe's borders were “closed, and we will ensure they stay closed.”
  • Ankara’s decision to open its borders is made at a time when Turkey is seeking western support in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that resolving the migration crisis requires European support in Syria, as new clashes between refugees and police on the border with Greece began. “If European countries want to resolve the issue, they must support Turkey’s efforts for political and humanitarian solutions in Syria,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara on Wednesday.

Idlib Governorate is one of the 14 governorates (provinces) of Syria. In 2011, the Governorate was taken over by rebel militias, who have controlled it since then.

Tens of thousands of people have flocked to Greece since Turkey announced its borders would be opened on Friday, raising concerns in Europe about a migration crisis similar to the one in 2015. Faced with this new influx, several European leaders condemned Ankara’s move as “blackmail,” which, in accordance with the terms of the agreement concluded with Brussels in 2016, undertook to combat illegal immigrants in exchange for financial assistance.

Europe will not “Succumb to Blackmail” from Turkey

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday that Europe would not “succumb to blackmail” from Turkey, and that its borders to migrants were “closed, and we will ensure they stay closed.” Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for the Turkish president, countered that “we have never considered refugees as a means of political blackmail.”

After a visit to Ankara, EU High Representative Josep Borrell announced the allocation of emergency assistance in the amount of €170 million for “the most vulnerable people in Syria.” According to Athens, since the opening of the borders of Ankara, about 1,720 migrants have joined the islands of the Aegean Sea, adding to 38,000 exiles.

In his speech on Wednesday, Erdogan accused Europeans of “trampling” human rights by “beating, drowning, and even shooting” migrants seeking to enter Europe. Ankara’s decision to open its borders is made at a time when Turkey is seeking western support in Syria, conducting an offensive, and faced with an influx of displaced people.

In Turkey, the population of Syrian refugees is estimated to be around 3.0 million, with many more who are unregistered, of whom 260,000 live in the 22 camps, as of May 2017. The camps, also known as Temporary Accommodation Centers or Temporary Protection Centers (TPCs), are run by the government-led Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) with the support of the United Nations and NGO partners.

The onset of the Syrian regime since December in Idlib, the last stronghold of rebels and jihadists in northwestern Syria, really led to a humanitarian disaster, when about a million people were displaced to the Turkish border. Ankara, which already receives 3.6 million Syrians on its land, requires within a few months the creation of a “security zone” in northern Syria to resettle the displaced there. After weeks of escalating tensions in the Ankara region, it launched an offensive against the regime last week.

The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday the deaths of two new soldiers as a result of shelling of the regime, as a result of which the number of victims among Turkish citizens in Idlib last week reached almost 40. Turkey, which shot down a Syrian plane on Tuesday, the third since Sunday, has increased drone attacks in recent days. According to the non-governmental organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, nine fighters for the regime were killed on Wednesday.

Clashes take place on the eve of the decisive meeting in Moscow between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country militarily supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. On Wednesday, the Turkish president said he hopes to put an end to the “ceasefire” at the summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, through her spokeswoman, asked the two leaders to create a security zone in the region to protect the displaced.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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