The borders to Europe will remain open for migrants passing through Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday. He said the policy is not coercive because leaving Turkey is the refugees’ choice, APA reports citing Daily Sabah.
“Are the borders open or closed? We don’t have time to discuss it anymore. It is done. Refugees are leaving on their own,” the president told journalists accompanying him on the presidential plane on his way back from an official visit to Russia.
The president added that irregular migration remains one of the most problematic consequences of the Syrian crisis, noting that Turkey can’t handle the influx of refugees alone.
“Assume that all these people (from Idlib) would enter Turkey somehow. This means 5 million to 5.5 million refugees. How could Turkey handle this issue? We had to stop this movement, and (thanks to this agreement), we have managed to do so,” Erdogan stated.
Delegations from Turkey and Russia, including Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, came together on Thursday in Moscow where the two countries agreed to continue their cooperation in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib after weeks of tension, declaring a cease-fire while expressing an intention to provide a new status quo for the war-torn province. The cease-fire began Friday night.
Speaking on the situation of Turkey’s observation posts, some of which are surrounded by the Bashar Assad regime’s troops, Erdogan said there is no change in the positions of those military points.
“Currently, there are a total of 12 observation posts. Of course, these posts are of the utmost importance to us. All these will be kept as they are right now,” he said.
The Turkish military has established several observation points across Idlib as part of a de-escalation zone deal reached during the Astana peace process, backed by Turkey, Russia and Iran.
The aim of the observation posts is to establish, monitor and sustain the current cease-fire in the de-escalation zones, deliver humanitarian aid to people in need and to ensure the secure return of displaced people.
The president added that he refused Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s suggestion to hold a trilateral meeting between Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria due to Greek forces' mistreatment of the migrants trying to cross the border.
“Greece persecutes those people. As far as I follow, they (Greek police) have killed at least five people. In addition to that, they stabbed the rubber boats of migrants to sink them, which is a cruel practice,” Erdogan noted.
“Those politicians (Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis) should know that human life is not cheap,” he added.