Turkey can’t handle new refugee wave, says Erdogan

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – APRIL 27 : Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a gala dinner marking the 55th Foundation Anniversary of Constitutional Court at Historic Beykoz Pavilion in Istanbul, Turkey on April 27, 2017. (Photo by Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Istanbul, Dec 23 (IANS) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that his country cannot handle a “new refugee wave” from Syria, adding that the fresh influx would be “felt by all European countries”.

Speaking at an awards ceremony here on Sunday, Erdogan said more than 80,000 people from Idlib had fled to areas near the Turkish border amid heightened bombardments from Syrian and Russian forces, reports the BBC.

“If the violence towards the people of Idlib does not stop, this number will increase even more. In that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its own,” he said.

“The negative effects of this pressure on us will be an issue felt by all European countries, especially Greece,” he added.

Turkey already hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees – the largest refugee population in the world.

Erdogan warned of a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis, when more than a million people fled to Europe, if the violence did not end.

He said a Turkish delegation was slated to travel to Moscow on Monday to discuss the situation.

A ceasefire negotiated by Russia and Turkey halted a Syrian government assault on Idlib in August. But skirmishes and bombardments were still an almost daily occurrence, the BBC said.

Turkey wants Syrian refugees to return to a “safe zone” in the north-east of Syria that was seized from Kurdish-led forces in October.

But Ankara’s offensive in northern Syria drew widespread international condemnation, and its safe zone plan has had little backing from allies.

“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 added on Sunday.

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