At a moment Erdogan has his hands dirty in Syria and is preparing to get more militarily involved in Libya, Turkey's president has yet again threatened Europe with a refugee horde so large no country will be able to handle it. He's now specifically threatened Greece as being among the first to bear the brunt of the first waves of refugees unleashed by Turkey.
His threats are now centering on the major uptick in airstrikes by Russia and Syria on Idlib province, said to number in the "hundreds" since a new operation began on Dec.16. Since then, tens of thousands of civilians living under al-Qaeda's Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) have reportedly fled.
"Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, warning that European countries will feel the impact of such an influx if violence in Syria’s northwest is not stopped," Reuters reports.
Common estimates now put the number of Syrian refugees hosted on Turkish soil at 3.7 million, with another 3 million inside war-torn Idlib province, which means the refugee crisis is set to explode dramatically higher in terms of numbers — a likely scenario given Damascus has vowed to return "every inch" of Idlib and all Syrian territory to its control.
Thus far thousands have fled into neighboring Turkey, but there's been on the ground reports suggesting HTS militants are blocking the bulk of refugees from leaving, perhaps using them as 'human shields' amid the Russian-Syrian onslaught.
During a public speech in Istanbul on Sunday night, Erdogan claimed over 80,000 people were currently fleeing Idlib for the safety of Turkey, and repeated his urgent appeal for Europe to give additional support.
“The negative impact of the pressure we will be subjected to will be something that all European nations, especially Greece, will also feel,” he said, adding that a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis would become inevitable.
“We call on European countries to use their energy to stop the massacre in Idlib, rather than trying to corner Turkey for the legitimate steps it took in Syria,” Erdogan said, referencing the Turkish army's own ongoing 'Operation Peace Spring' against US-backed Syrian Kurds.
Erdogan further called the some $3 billion in support offered by the United Nations refugee agency last week "not enough".
As for Erdogan's targeting Greece in his latest remarks, this comes amid Turkey's new jostling to secure oil and gas exploration and drilling rights across a broad swath of the eastern and southern Mediterranean, especially following a contentious deal with Libya's GNA in Tripoli.
Greek sources: Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias traveled to Benghazi, Libya, on Sunday, where he met with the head of the Libyan National Army, General Khalifa Haftar, according to a ministry statement.
Athens is reportedly preparing to formally recognize Gen. Khalifa Haftar's Benghazi-based administration as the official government of Libya, at a moment he and Turkey are in direct open war with each other, given Ankara is said to be shipping more military supplies and possibly even troops to help repel his ongoing offensive against Tripoli. Turkey is the closest military supporter to the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, despite the UN-led arms embargo in place (which no one seems to be abiding by).
Greece has also vowed to thwart Turkish exploration and drilling vessels from traversing its waters to enter disputed maritime regions off Libya.
Thus with Athens now more closely embroiled in the emerging maritime dispute involving Turkey, Cyprus, Libya and Egypt, Erdogan has all the more reason to target Greece with threats of flooding the islands with migrants — as happened in 2015, and which has been a steady stream of new arrivals ever since.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments about a new wave of
incoming migrants from Syria to Europe should not be seen as a threat
to the EU or other partners but as “simply a reflection of the
truth,” political analyst and journalist Klaus Jurgens suggested.
warning from Erdogan came during an award ceremony late Sunday, when
the Turkish president suggested that if the violence in the region
does not stop, the number of refugees would increase even more and
“in that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its
carries the biggest burden with regards to refugees and has become
indeed a humanitarian role model in this context,” Jurgens said.
“As Turkey wishes to continue to establish a viable, permanent safe
zone and thus greatly helps to stop bloodshed and aims at erasing
terrorism from this part of the region, of course if Turkey is a
stand-alone actor in this regard and many international actors
turning a blind eye, even Turkey has a right to say that another
massive wave of incoming refugees fleeing from a war that other
actors, not Turkey, continue to stage, is reaching its absorption
limits. The Turkish population is the most welcoming nation but it is
only natural that at some point absorption capacity limits will have
currently hosts nearly 3.7 million registered Syrian refugees and has
previously warned Europe that it could no longer bear the brunt of
the conflict. The Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a Turkish aid
group, on Monday reported that the number of people fleeing the
violence and heading to Turkey had reached 120,000.
part of an agreement with the EU, Turkey has actively prevented
Syrian refugees from attempting the perilous journey to Greece in
exchange for financial support. Earlier in October, Erdogan had
accused Brussels of failing to deliver on the deal. He said Turkey
still expects the promised €6 billion ($6.6 million) after EU
Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger had suggested that the bloc
should wind down its humanitarian payments to Turkey with respect to
Syrian refugees and transfer money to Jordan and Lebanon instead.
will not send tens of thousands of refugees on to Greece for example;
I interpret the President’s statement as a warning signal but one
that is aimed at finding dialogue with Brussels in particular, and
not one that is aimed at burning diplomatic bridges,” Jurgens said.
and Moscow, and to a certain extent Damascus must exchange clear
views about what to do next and hopefully come to a solution that
enables lasting peace benefiting the peoples of the region comprised
of so many different backgrounds yet all wishing for just that one
thing: peace! The EU would be well advised to better understand the
tension currently visible in this volatile region,” he added.
than 300,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced by
the Syria conflict, now in its ninth year. On 31 August 2019, Russia,
Turkey and Iran became ceasefire guarantors in conflict-ridden Syria.
Russia regularly carries out humanitarian operations across the
country and helps Damascus in providing safe passage for the return
of Syrian refugees. However, the ceasefire has been violated several
times and fighting has intensified since 1 December. The latest
violations were registered on 24 December, according to the Russian
Defence Ministry, counting
55 truce breaches in the country over the past 24 hours,
including 21 violations in the north-western province of Idlib