Turkey will not stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish executive stated, as Ankara responded Friday to the killing of 33 Turkish troopers in an offensive by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region.
Opening the border could free up a repeat of the migration crisis of 2015-2016 when over a million people entered by the sea in Greece and crossed the Balkans on foot until Turkey closed its frontier in a deal with the EU.
By the early hours of Friday, refugees and migrants had already been clearing the way for frontier posts. The delegate said police and border guards had been told to stand down and open gates from both land and sea.
A million civilians have been dispersed since December inside Syria near the Turkish border in severe winter conditions, maybe the worst humanitarian crisis of the nine-year battle.
Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian air force, have launched an offensive to capture the northwest, the last remaining region captured by rebels who are supported by Turkey. With diplomacy sponsored by Ankara and Moscow in rags, NATO-member Turkey has come closer than ever in the battle to direct confrontation with Russia on the war zone.
Ankara’s ire over Thursday’s offensive — the deadliest suffered by the Turkish military in almost 30 years — raised the prospect that Prez Tayyip Erdogan will kick off a full-scale operation against the Russian-supported Syrian army.