The 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 own.”
“Turkey 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 been reached.”
Turkey 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.
As 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.
“Turkey 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.
“Ankara 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.
More 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 bordering Turkey.