Turkey threatens EU it will send Syrian refugees to Europe

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defended his country’s offensive in northern Syria, warning the EU not to describe the military operation as an occupation

The Turkish ground offensive in northern Syria aims to set up a 30km-wide buffer zone
The Turkish ground offensive in northern Syria aims to set up a 30km-wide buffer zone

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to send three million Syrian refugees into Europe if the EU describes his military operation in Syria as an occupation.

The threat came as the UN Security Council was asked to discuss the Turkish offensive on a request by the five EU member states that sit around the table – the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, and Poland.

The Turkish offensive in Kurd-held territory in northern Syria continued for the second day on Thursday amid international condemnation and reports that dozens of Kurdish militants were killed.

Thousands of people are reported to be fleeing the area, where Turkey wants to set up what it describes as a “safe zone” cleared of Kurdish militants. The 30km-deep buffer zone inside Syria will run along Turkey’s southern border with the neighbouring country.

Turkey regards the Kurdish militants as terrorists, despite them having been key allies on the ground in the fight to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.

But Turkey also wants to use the “safe zone” to relocate one million Syrian refugees hosted in the country.

There are more than three million Syrian refugees in Turkey, which it is hosting as part of an agreement reached with the EU in 2016. The agreement also includes financial aid from the EU to Turkey, to the tune of €6 billion.

The Turkish operation started on Wednesday after the US withdrew military personnel in the area that were supporting the Kurdish forces in the fight against IS.

The American withdrawal has been described as a stab in the back by the Kurds, considered to be fearless fighters and a reliable ally in the region. The area targeted by Turkey is also home to thousnads of imprisoned IS fighters and their families.

On Thursday US President Donald Trump tried to minimise the debt his country had towards the Kurds, insisting they had not helped America during the Second World War, but added that the US was watching Turkey’s actions closely.

Meanwhile, in Malta, the Nationalist Party has condemned Turkey’s action and called for a return to diplomacy.

“It is unacceptable for Turkey to continue using military might and not diplomacy to solve the problems in the region,” Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Carm Mifsud Bonnici said. 

 

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