Erdogan threatens EU with opening border to millions of refugees
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the European Union that Ankara will allow millions of refugees to make their way toward Europe if the bloc keeps criticizing Turkey’s military operation in northeast Syria.
“Hey EU, wake up. I say it again: if you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple: we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you,” Erdogan said during a meeting with provincial heads of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on Thursday.
The refugees are the result of an eight-year conflict in Syria, which both Turkey and the EU have helped to flare on.
Back in 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement, under which Ankara agreed to prevent refugees from leaving towards Europe in exchange for six billion euros and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
During the past three years, however, the Turkish government has been criticizing Brussels for being sluggish in providing the money and not doing more to help with the broader refugee problem.
Addressing the European bloc, Erdogan said, “You have never been sincere”, adding, “Now they say they will withhold three billion euros from us. Have you ever kept any promise you gave us so far? No.”
Erdogan’s comments came a day after the EU condemned the Turkish aggression in northeastern Syria, calling on Ankara to immediately stop its operation in the Arab country.
“If Turkey’s plan is to create a so-called ‘safe zone’ don’t expect the EU to pay for any of it,” said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also accused Ankara of “willingly risking further destabilizing the region and a resurgence of” the Daesh terrorist group.